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St. Johns County has plan to fix breach after hurricane washes out road

Old A1A, Summer Haven River covered in sand from Dorian storm surge

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – If you stand at the intersection where Old A1A meets A1A in St. Johns County, you might notice something is missing: Old A1A.

So much sand washed over the highway during Hurricane Dorian's storm surge that a "Road Closed" sign is really the only evidence that a road was ever there.

Jesse Turner, a St. Johns County resident who once worked for the county but has since retired, said he used to maintain Old A1A and watched it change over the years with each passing storm.

"But, as you can see, now there's not anything left to maintain," Turner said.

St. Johns County resident Raymond Daidle said he used to commute along Old A1A.

"I drove a truck through here many a day. Now, it's all gone," Daidle said. "It's all gone into the Intracoastal here. It's bad."

On Thursday, water from the Atlantic Ocean could be seen still washing through a breach left from the hurricane, covering what is supposed to be Old A1A and heading toward a nearby home. 

St. Johns County officials said they are making every effort to close the breach. After a damage survey was completed Sept. 6, county commissioners approved a plan Sept. 12 to excavate sediment from the Summer Haven River and use it to close the breach.

Photos provided by St. Johns County

Before-and-after aerial photos the county provided show that where the Summer Haven River should be is now so filled with sediment it looks like an extension of the beach.

On Thursday, in an area less than a mile north of the breach by Old A1A, the ocean tide covered that extended beach, surrounding some homes that sit on stilts and making them all but inaccessible.

The county said it would have acted even more quickly to close the breach but it had to obtain authorization from several local, state and federal agencies, and an emergency request for bids wasn't put out until Wednesday. County officials said a project like this requires a contractor for certain types of equipment and manpower.

Bidding on the county's contract closes Friday, and county officials anticipate a contractor will be selected quickly and will begin work late next week. 

In the meantime, Turner spent much of Thursday using a Bobcat to rebuild a barrier of sand between the homes and ocean.

"I am trying to get the sand out from under this house -- they had a couple of feet of sand that was under it, washing in -- and get a berm built back up here to keep the water from coming in again," Turner said. "If (the water) gets any higher, I am going to have to stop."

The county's project to close the breach is expected to take four weeks once a contractor gets the green light.


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