WITH THE HEAT and crowds of the peak summer months behind us, we are heading into my favorite part of the year in Atlantic Beach – the late summer of September and early October. Although this is generally the best time of the year, it can also be the worst – it is the heart of hurricane season. Each year when a storm threatens us, town hall receives a surge of the same questions regarding the closing of bridges and re-entry passes. The same policies and procedures have been in place for years and I’ll recap them below in hopes of answering your questions before the next storm approaches.
First, we are often asked when we will “close the bridge.” We never actually close the bridges. Local police or the highway patrol will always let someone off the island during a storm. They may, however, advise you against crossing in high winds or in a high profile vehicle (such as a van or SUV). On the other hand, we do sometimes control access onto the island, but only if an evacuation has been ordered.
It is only during the case of an evacuation that you may need a re-entry pass to get back onto the island before the general public is allowed onto the island. If no evacuation has been ordered, you will not need a re-entry pass.
The purpose of a re-entry pass system is to control access back into town in the case of significant damage to property on the island. If there is damage to homes and businesses, there is no reason for the general public to be allowed into town. In other words, the purpose of the system is to protect your property.
For the system to be effective we need to limit the number of passes that are issued to those who own property or businesses. Our lifetime passes were distributed years ago. If you do not have your passes, please call town hall. Make this call soon. Do not wait for a storm. In the hours leading up to a storm our staff has their hands full preparing the town for a natural disaster, re-entry passes cannot be our top priority.
Our passes are lifetime passes; take good care of them. Each replacement pass costs $25. I suggest putting them in your car’s glove compartment and treating them with the same care that you treat your car’s registration. Besides, the pass also serves as a free parking pass for town residents.
Re-entry passes will be required only if an evacuation has been ordered. And, in the case of a major storm that causes serious damage, it may be days before we let anyone with re-entry passes onto the island due to dangerous conditions such as downed power lines.
Call town hall if you have any questions about the re-entry pass system. And, please, do not wait to make this call until a storm is upon us. In the meantime, enjoy the great late summer weather and hope for a storm-free year.
Mayor Trace Cooper