Preparing the Community for the Storm

Dear Neighbors,

With Hurricane Dorian threatening Florida in the next few days, here’s an update on the HOA’s hurricane preparations:

  • The builders have been instructed to prepare adequately for the storm. That includes tying down lumber, emptying dumpsters, securing or removing debris and other loose items.
  • The pool pumps will be turned off on Monday for safety reasons. The pool tech will come back out after the storm to clean the pool ands restart the pumps.
  • A signed community access form has been given to our management company. If the area is evacuated, the police will allow employees of Associa to come in to inspect the property after the storm passes.
  • The furniture at the Amenity Center will be secured on Sunday: loungers will be stacked into the two restrooms; umbrellas and smaller items will be placed in the utility room; and the picnic tables will be collapsed and moved into the kitchen area. We will be asking for volunteers to come and help us to this, so if you have an hour to spare, please do come and help. Exact time will be posted later.
  • All the weirs (outlet pipes, grids, fish excluders) and outlets of each retention pond were checked thoroughly on Friday to ensure that there are no blockages and that water is running freely from pond to pond.
  • The storm drains around the sub-division were also checked. Any shields or curb guards found were removed. It’s possible we missed some, so please check those nearest your house and ensure that there are no storm drain guards that will prevent rainfall from flowing freely into the drainage system during the storm.
  • Associa is on standby to assist in filing insurance claims for the HOA and secure any financing that may be needed to make post hurricane repairs. Managers will be making every effort to visit Arbor Mill to conduct a post storm assessment as long as conditions are safe and their personal situation allows.

What can you do to prepare for the storm?

  1. Identify neighbors who may have special medical needs and who will require special assistance in evacuations. St Johns County has an Evacuation Assistance Program. Check that they are signed up for this.
  2. Make sure you know your evacuation zone in case of an evacuation order.
  3. Please offer assistance to elderly or vulnerable neighbors in preparing for the hurricane (shopping for supplies, taking in outdoor items, etc.).
  4. Have ready your personal insurance carrier’s contact information so that insurance claims can be filed.
  5. Ensure that you have all of the items that you will need after the storm, such as food, water, and medicines.
  6. Secure or bring inside any outdoor belongings that could become projectiles during the storm.

Note: Some people have been asking if the ponds are going to be pumped as in previous years. The HOA has considered this carefully, in consultation with the developer and others. It has been decided not to proceed with pumping. These are our reasons:

  1. Our retention ponds are designed for a 25-year rain event. In other words, this neighborhood is designed for the rain accompanying a direct hurricane strike of 8" per day, which is a 25-year storm event. None of the current models have predicted a direct strike on Jacksonville. The developer does not advise pumping the ponds at this time.
  2. Due to the design of the retention ponds, which are all linked and work on a cascade system, the only way that pumping would benefit the entire community is to either pump each pond, starting at pond 1 (the top end of Athens Drive) and working our way around (which would take days and is, therefore, impractical and too expensive), or pump the bottom pond only to lower the level in all ponds. However, water levels are already near or below the level of the drain structures. If we pumped now, we would be pumping from the permanent pool, which contains sediment and pollutants. We would need permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to pump water from our retention ponds into the natural wetlands, and we believe that is likely to be denied.
  3. Pumping is not a cheap option. To hire a pump to reduce the levels of just one retention pond (not the bottom pond) would cost at least $2,500. That cost would rise significantly to pump more than one pond or pump the bottom pond for long enough to reduce the levels in all ponds (assuming permission was granted from the County to do this).
  4. The HOA has been assured that the previous years’ pumping was done not out of necessity but out of an abundance of caution. The pump was already on site and the cost was negligible. What’s more, only the big pond behind the dog park was pumped, so only those residents would have benefited, we are told.
  5. More critical than pumping is to ensure all weirs are unblocked and to keep all storm drains clear, which means ALL OF US have a duty to secure or bring inside outside items from the yard (umbrellas, children’s toys, etc). Please make sure you do this.

Of course, we have to accept that there are no guarantees in a hurricane, even if we pumped. And we will see the levels of our ponds rise during the storm. The roads will also hold water after a while since the storm drains empty directly into our retention ponds. There is a stormwater swale to the side of the bottom pond (behind the houses in the cul-de-sac in Athens Dr, near the entrance to the Amenity Center). This swale is designed to allow excess water to be quickly absorbed into the ground or to flow gradually into the wetlands at the back. So, do not be alarmed if you see water collecting there.