As Hurricane Irma approaches, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is preparing to respond as needed and providing information to boaters and campers on operational adjustments that will take place at navigation locks and recreation facilities.
For boaters, the Corps has extended operating hours for its five navigation locks on the Okeechobee Waterway; they will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting Thursday (Sept. 7). To ensure safety of lock operators, the Corps will suspend operations when lightning is in the area, or when winds exceed 35 mph. Corps staff are reminding boaters that mooring vessels or rafts near approaches to locks or in places that impact navigation is prohibited.
Additionally, District staff began closing Corps’ campgrounds today in south Florida. The Corps has advised visitors to move campers, motor homes, tents, vessels, and trailers from facilities as soon as possible.
“Public safety is our top priority,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “We are adjusting our operations to ensure the safety of those who use our facilities in south Florida.”
District staff are also preparing for a pre-storm evaluation of the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee. The current lake stage is 13.68 feet. While no immediate threat exists, the Corps advises people living and working around the lake to be cognizant of water levels and have a plan to take action if conditions warrant. Corps staff will continue their constant communication with elected leaders and emergency management officials at the state and local level.
The Jacksonville District activated its emergency operations center on Friday (Sept. 1). District staff have spent the past few days coordinating actions to move people and equipment into strategic locations so recovery can begin as soon as the storm passes.
More information on Jacksonville District response actions can be found at www.saj.usace.army.mil.
Release no. 17-042