Preparing for a “Volatile” Hurricane Season


Lisa Barton



Preparing for a “Volatile” Hurricane Season

Beaches residents cherish the playful and restorative nature of the ocean and the laid-back lifestyle that comes with living near the coast. But every hurricane season they remember why living on an island isn’t always fun and games.  

Hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30, and it can be a tense time. Wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, residents from Ponte Vedra Beach north to Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach are vulnerable to the threat of hurricane winds that can top 150mph and storm surge, or coastal flooding, that can rise to nine feet or more.

Hurricane Matthew, a Category 3 storm is a good example — it caused the most damage Floridians had seen in six decades.

That 2016 storm killed a dozen people in Florida alone as it tracked parallel to the coast and up to Georgia and the Carolinas. It left over one million Floridians without power, flooded downtown Jacksonville and caused about $10 billion in damage across the US.

In Ponte Vedra Beach, Matthew’s storm surge damaged more than 200 homes, washed away part of A1A — the area’s hurricane evacuation route— and significantly eroded the beaches and sand dunes, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Predictions for Five or More Major Storms

This year, hurricane experts predict a “volatile,” hurricane season that, during its peak, could be “churning out storms at a fast and furious pace,” according to AccuWeather.

That’s because, in the last six months, much of the Atlantic Ocean has seen record high surface temperatures, which can fuel storms and increase their frequency and intensity. In addition, weather patterns are shifting from El Niño, which tends to suppress hurricanes, to the La Niña phase, which promotes hurricane development. 

Hurricanes evolve when low air pressure causes hot, humid air from the ocean to rise in a spiral shape. As that warm air rises, it releases heat, cools down, and condenses into gusty bands of clouds and storms. What starts as a tropical depression will grow into a tropical storm if the winds reach 39 mph. If the winds keep growing to 74 mph, it’s officially declared a hurricane.

The nation’s leading hurricane forecasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Colorado State University, predict roughly 11 hurricanes in 2024. About five of them are expected to reach Category 3, with winds of at least 111 mph. While these annual predictions often miss the mark, NOAA forecasters said they have 70% confidence in this year’s forecast.

Long Bridges and Big Decisions

Beaches residents live in vulnerable, low-lying Zones A and B, meaning they face mandatory evacuations. But they can’t be forced to leave. Historically, some people have stayed and weathered the storms at home. But it’s illegal and authorities warn they may have no access to rescue services and face power outages and food and water shortages for several days.

It's best to think ahead and plan to stay with family or friends. Moving further inland, even if only 15-20 miles, is often far enough to stay safe. Other options include going to a hotel or a public shelter.

Just as important is the ability to move swiftly, before it’s too late. All five bridges to the mainland close once the wind reaches 40mph. From north to south, those bridges are on the Wonderwood Expressway; Atlantic, Beach and Butler Boulevards; and Palm Valley Road, also known as County Road 210. 

When it comes to evacuation, every hour counts. A Hurricane Watch is issued 48 hours before 74 mph winds are expected. A Hurricane warning is issued 36 hours before. 

Better Forecasting and Preparation

Over the last several years, scientists and technological advances have improved the accuracy of hurricane forecasts, boosting emergency preparedness and response.

This year, the National Hurricane Center has something new to offer: Rather than issue storm updates every six hours — as it has for many years — it will update more frequently, as warranted. These forecasts should give residents more time to batten down the hatches and evacuate if necessary.

Meanwhile, beach restoration projects, scheduled to finish in the next few months, should improve the barrier that makes the beach, private property, and wildlife habitat less vulnerable to storms.

How To Prepare When a Hurricane is Approaching

  • Fill the gas tank.
  • Build a survival kit for your car, including first aid, non-perishable food/water, tire inflater, tool kit, jack and spare tire, jumper cable, road flares, flashlight and mobile device chargers.
  • Remove yard objects that could become flying missiles, such as furniture, grills, lounge chairs, umbrellas and bird baths.
  • Remove tree limbs and other yard trash.
  • Forget the duct tape – it provides no protection. Be ready to cover windows with 5/8” plywood.
  • If ordered to evacuate, bring a small notebook with up-to-date information, such as contact information for family and friends, banking and insurance policies, medical phone numbers and important account numbers and passwords.

How To Prepare Well in Advance

  • Clean gutters and ask a licensed roof contractor to double-check the roof’s integrity.
  • Keep trees pruned.
  • Brace garage doors: After Hurricane Andrew in 1992,engineers found that four out of five homes that suffered major structural damage lost their garage door first. Retrofit kits are available for older door garage doors.
  • Homeowners insurance doesn’t usually cover flooding. Flood insurance does, but don’t wait until the last minute: it takes 30 days to take effect.
  • Install impact resistant windows or hurricane shutters.
  • Take photos and video of your home and all belongings for insurance purposes.

For tips on how to build an emergency supply kit, visit

St. Johns County Hurricane Preparedness Guide 

City of Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Guide

Lisa Barton

Lisa Barton

Lisa Barton, the owner of Lisa Barton Team Ponte Vedra Beach - Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners, is a top real estate agent in Ponte Vedra Beach and the surrounding communities. Lisa specializes in luxury real estate sales, including gated communities, waterfront properties, and estate homes. A graduate from the University of Florida and George Mason University, Lisa currently resides in Sawgrass Players Club with her husband.

The Lisa Barton Real Estate Team in Ponte Vedra Beach

Need help buying or selling your home?

If you are new to the area and have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would be glad to help.