St. Johns County estimates $2B in damage

Beach residents allowed to return; schools, courthouse closed Monday

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Chris Parenteau - Reporter, Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - St. Johns County officials reopened the Bridge of Lions, the State Road 312 bridge to Anastasia Island and the Matanzas Inlet Bridge at 4 p.m. Saturday, allowing residents into beach communities to see what Hurricane Matthew had done to their homes and businesses.

The bridges opened a few hours after officials had pleaded for patience from residents not yet allowed to return home.

"I just want to get home, I'm nervous to see it," Stephanie Lanham said. "This is the first big storm I've been through as an adult with a house and kids."

What they found included portions of A1A washed away, boat and fishing docks washed into the roadway. and heavy damage, especially to oceanfront property.

According to St. Johns County Emergency Management, the city of St. Augustine, Anastasia Island and all other barrier islands are open for re-entry.  Ponte Vedra Boulevard, Mickler Road and County Road 13 had all reopened as of 8 p.m. Saturday.

SJC Emergency Manager Michael Wanchick said no one was killed or injured when the storm passed, and officials don't want that to change when people are allowed back into heavily damaged areas of the county. 

As of 8 p.m. Saturday, county emergency officials said urban search and rescue had been completed in 90- percent of high-risk areas and damage assessment teams had completed 20 percent of initial assessments of structures in impacted areas. 

Some homes north of Vilano Beach and in the Crescent Beach area were destroyed, hundreds more are damaged and Wanchick estimated property damage in the county could reach $2 billion.

WATCH: Coverage of historic storm | Sky 4 surveys Matthew damage

During re-entry, everyone, both evacuees and those who remained during the storm, should be careful
of standing water hazards, debris obstructions, and domestic or wild animals that may be stranded from their owners or habitats.

In addition, please use extreme caution if operating generators.

Associated Press

Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Fla., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The city’s Public Works Department worked Saturday to restore services as soon as possible including water, sewer and solid waste collections although complete restoration of full service will likely take several days.

For the latest conditions in the city of St. Augustine and all of St. Johns County, residents should continue to call St. Johns County Emergency Management at 904-824-5550.

County officials said St. Johns County public schools would be out on Monday, although year-round employees should report for work. St. Johns River State College campuses in St. Augustine, Orange Park and Palatka will also remain closed Monday.

The St. Johns County Courthouse will also remain closed Monday.

Roads, bridges reopen

The county initially announced the State Road 206 bridge to Crescent Beach would also reopen, but Florida Department of Transportation engineers discovered structural damage caused by Hurricane Matthew on the bridge to Anastasia Island.

The Shands Bridge, the State Road 16 crossing of the St. Johns River, also remains closed due to erosion on the eastern approach.

Many roads still remain blocked by storm debris, county officials said. As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Bishop Estates Road and Wildwood Drive remained closed and multiple road closures had been reported in the St. Augustine Shores neighborhood due to downed trees and power lines. 

Water services restored

St. Johns County restored all water and sewer services to St. Johns County Utility customers on Anastasia Island and the North Beaches, including Vilano Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach, and Ponte Vedra Beach, about 8 p.m. Saturday.

Until further notice, customers located in those communities must boil water intended for consumption for a minimum of one minute. As an alternative, bottled water may be used.

To report water or sewer outages, please call 904-209-2700.

Long wait for residents to return

For thousands who evacuated, getting home to Ponte Vedra Beach, the wait for the Palm Valley bridge to reopen was frustrating.  Cars lined Nocatee Parkway for hours waiting for the blockade to be lifted.

Among them was former Jaguars lineman Tony Boselli, who was feeling a little anxious, but one of several people who had heard with someone who didn't evacuate.

"He took a picture of the house," Boselli said. "It looks OK. We just want to get over there and get home and make sure everything's in place."

"During re-entry, everyone should be cautious of standing water hazards, debris obstructions, and domestic
or wild animals that may be stranded from their owners or habitats," the county wrote. "Residents returning to the evacuated areas on Anastasia Island should remember that even after returning home, water and sewer services may not be immediately available and power may not be restored in many areas. A boil water notice will be issued to affected areas."

For updates on the official re-entry process, please visit www.sjcfl.us, Facebook.com/SJCFL, or call the EOC Citizen Help Desk at 904-824-5550.

The county is opening two distribution points for water (48 bottles) and a two-day supply of food (six meals total) per person. The two locations will be open at 1 p.m.:

  • Pedro Menendez High School at 600 State Road 206 in St. Augustine
  • Nease High School at 10550 Ray Road in Ponte Vedra Beach

The Salvation Army has mobile feeding at the following locations: Nocatee to Fruit Cove, The Shores and Anastasia Island.

There are also two shelters still open in the county: 

  • Pacetti Bay Middle School (general population/special medical needs shelter)
  • South Wood Elementary (pet-friendly)

St. Johns County residents can receive text messages regarding instant updates on Hurricane Matthew relief and recovery efforts by texting “STJOHNSFL” to the number 888777. 

St. Augustine damage still being assessed

St. Augustine, a city of 14,000 which is the nation's oldest permanently occupied European settlement and includes a 17th-century Spanish fortress and many historic homes turned into bed-and-breakfasts, was awash in rain and seawater that authorities said could top 8 feet.

City Manager John Regan said there's no count yet of the number of homes and businesses in the city that were flooded. He said that city water is safe to drink except in the Davis Shores area, where a boil water advisory is in effect.

"It's a really serious, devastating situation," said St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver. 

On Saturday morning, property manager Nick Trunck was in the city's historic district to check on three buildings, which include several shops and 14 apartments. He says he arrived at 5 a.m. "prepared for the worst."

The buildings lost several shingles, an awning and water got into one area. The property owner had arranged for 10 men to come from Connecticut to help with cleanup after the storm but Trunck says he doesn't "think we need anything but a couple of guys and a mop."

Nearby, Snack Shop owner Tina Rumrell says her business only suffered from a power outage. While they'll "probably lose all the food products," she says she's feeling "very fortunate."

St. Augustine to resume residential trash collection Monday

The city of St. Augustine will resume residential garbage collection on Monday, Oct. 10 with a revised schedule because of Hurricane Matthew.

Questions about waste pickup and additional information may be directed to the city’s Solid Waste Division at 904-825-1049 or the Public Works Department at 904-825-1010, Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

Household garbage, recycling

Residential household garbage and recycling collection will resume on its regular schedule starting on Monday, Oct. 10.  Additionally, residential garbage collection will also be collected on the same day as normal recycling collection to accommodate those who have spoiled food and other household items to be discarded.

Recycling collection will return to normal and customers are asked not to use the green recyclables can for household garbage.

Storm yard debris collection

Residents are urged to place yard debris curbside to allow collection by city crews and city retained contractors. Please place debris off the road at the curb but away from fire hydrants, mailboxes, and other utility boxes to avoid additional damage.

Storm debris is only vegetative and not mixed with any other types of debris or garbage. Vegetative debris consists of tree stumps, branches, trunks and other leafy material. Only loose vegetative debris will be collected. Bagged debris should not be placed on the public right-of-way.

Construction debris, appliances

Construction debris should be removed by contractors performing work. Construction debris may be placed curbside if the work is being performed by residents, but must be separated from yard debris and household garbage.

Disposed appliances such as refrigerators must be empty of food or other items, but may also be placed curbside for pick-up.

Disaster debris, household waste collection schedules for SJC

For customers of St. Johns County solid waste services, Republic Services and Advanced Disposal have established temporary  debris and household waste collection schedules  in response to Hurricane Matthew. 

Curbside collection of storm debris

Private contractors will begin collecting storm-related debris -- branches, limbs, brush, leaves, and routine
yard waste -- throughout St. Johns County on Monday, Oct. 10.

During this emergency collection period, storm debris must be piled at the curb. Please do not place debris in garbage bags or barrels, or mix household garbage or construction materials with storm debris.

Household trash, and bagged debris of any kind, will not be picked up with storm debris.

Contractors will make multiple passes through neighborhoods, so residents can continue moving storm debris curbside until cleanup is complete.

Post-hurricane trash, recycling collection schedule

Garbage collection resumes Monday, Oct. 10, and will follow a special post-hurricane schedule:

Monday, Oct. 10: Residents who did not receive garbage collection services on Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7 will have their garbage collected on Monday, October 10.

Tuesday, Oct. 11: Standard garbage pick-up schedule resumes. Residents who would have had their garbage collected on Monday, October 10 and Tuesday, October 11 will have their garbage collected on Tuesday, October 11.

Wednesday, Oct. 12: Recycling collection resumes and will follow the standard schedule. There are no make-up days for missed recycling collection.

For more information, please visit www.recyclestjohns.com or call 904-827-6980.

Residents survive storm in Ponte Vedra Beach

The unofficial mayor of Marsh Landing spent hours with a chainsaw clearing downed trees and limbs at his house and those of his neighbors.

He said falling trees were not what scared him and his wife the most. It was the rising water rising in the neighborhood.

"All water. White caps. All water," Will Fallner said. "We were within 8 inches of being flooded out of the house."

"It was frightening," Mary Fallner said. 

At Sawgrass Beach, much of the deck blew away, along with a cabana. No one knows where it is.

Their sand dunes were also washed away.

"If this is good news, I'd hate to see what bad news would have been," Sawgrass Country Club member John Fawcett said.

Vilano Beach recovers after hurricane

In Vilano Beach, many homes were destroyed. The streets were lined with several houses tagged with a red "X," marking them unsafe. 

On Saturday evening, one family tried to make the best of the horrible situation by making a bonfire using the debris that flew into their yard.

"I stayed here. It was my mom's choice," John Coleman said.

Coleman lost his sister a couple of years and before that his father and his mother were attacked by a shark. So when Hurricane Matthew came, they had no fight left in them and decided to stay

"I didn't want to be anywhere else but here with my mom and my cousin. We would've died. I would've wanted to die with my mom," Coleman said.

Their lives were spared and there home was still safe after the storm. 
 

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.