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New effort to protect sand dunes highlights their importance ahead of storms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the 2020 season would be an above-average hurricane season. This year, they’re saying the same thing.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Last year's hurricane season was record-breaking, and this year could be no different.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the 2020 season would be an above-average hurricane season, and this year they’re saying the same thing.

The effort to protect sand dunes at Jacksonville's Beaches highlights just how important the sand dunes are during storms. Groups are putting up signs that read "please keep off dunes" and rope to block them off from beach-goers.

There are plenty of beach-goers even on cloudy days before the storm as the July 4th weekend wraps up.

"When you're from the north, we get winter," said John Beaver, who is visiting Jacksonville with his family from Minnesota. His Native American tribe is in Canada, and he knows about the cold. "So we try to enjoy and soak up the sun here in the south."

RELATED: NOAA predicts 2021 Atlantic hurricane season to be more active than normal

"Relax and enjoy the weather before the storm," Jacksonville local Heather Hinds said.

There may be fewer sunny days ahead. NOAA reports 2020 was the fifth year in a row with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Thirty storms were named, and 11 made landfall in the continental U.S.

It hasn't stopped the locals or tourists, who now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting, are really just glad to be anywhere else besides at home.

"Of course we have a nice hotel at Disney so if we have to stay indoors..." began Beaver.

"If we're stuck inside, we're stuck inside," added his wife Megan Beaver.

"We're stuck inside, yeah," agreed John.

More people and more storms are all part of the reason you'll see the rope and signs to stay off the sand dunes at the beaches.

"Our sand dunes take the blunt end of that storm surge," said Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol's Kevin Brown.

Brown is helping get the signs up.

"We want these dunes to get as big and beautiful as they can," he said. "Because when we do get a storm, we're going to lose them. It's a natural effect, and then we need to come back and do our management again so that we can take on the next storm."

Brown and others putting up the signs still have more ground to cover.

"You don't want rising water," Brown said. "You don't want flood and these dunes hold that back. They probably save billions of dollars."

Protecting the dunes is an easy way you can help try to keep property from being destroyed on the other side of them. Another good takeaway from this story: enjoy the sun even when you know it's about to rain.

RELATED: 5 a.m. Update | Latest Tropical Storm Elsa projected path, models, and potential impact to First Coast

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