Isaias’ path spares low-lying St. Augustine neighborhoods from major flooding

St. Johns County residents get a taste of this hurricane season

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – In low-lying areas in St. Johns County, the track of Tropical Storm Isaias couldn’t have gone any better.

While winds and rain were expected in coastal St. Augustine as the storm moved up Florida’s east coast, the area avoiding a prolonged lashing of rain and devastating storm surge was a blessing.

But this has St. Johns County residents, who are already well accustomed to severe weather, preparing in case more storms pop up in the Atlantic this hurricane season.

One of the many areas in St. Johns County that suffered significant damage with two of the last three hurricanes to brush the area, Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017, was Davis Shores, which is among numerous low-lying neighborhoods in the area.

The flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 pounded that neighborhood and forced numerous residents out of their homes for months. Irma came through the following year, passing roughly 100 miles west of Jacksonville. Hurricane Dorian in 2019 grazed St. Augustine but didn’t leave nearly the amount of flooding damage as Matthew and Irma did.

Pre-storm precautions like boarding up and using sandbags around houses helped residents there avert damage like in the past. And Dorian didn’t cause nearly the widespread flooding as the previous two named storms. But some residents still put sandbags out as a precaution for Isaias.

While Tropical Storm Isaias staying off Florida’s east coast has spared coastal communities, conditions at the beaches are dangerous with any system like this. High winds at St. Augustine Beach made for a choppy surf and double flags warned people to stay out of the water, as swimming is prohibited at St. Johns County beaches until Tuesday at dawn.

But families still visited St. Augustine Beach and its pier on Monday.

“We lucked out with this being offshore. We’re just there to enjoy the breeze and send some photos to some family up in Georgia,” said Ashley Russell, who lives in St. Augustine Beach.

While Ashley Russell and her family are grateful Tropical Storm Isaias wasn’t worse, it has them thinking about the peak of hurricane season.

“We have all of our propane. We have a new RV, so we’re ready to just take off any time. We’re always looking for that next adventure anyway,” Russell said.

Russell said while this storm was a good drill for the season, she’s not too worried.

“We feel pretty fortunate to be here in a concrete block condo, with our little baby,” Russell said.

Community reopening

In addition to the prohibition on swimming at St. Johns County beaches, including the Fort Matanzas National Monument beaches, being lifted Tuesday at dawn, on-beach driving is expected to be reinstated at 8 a.m. Tuesday, although county officials said gate openings may be delayed due to tidal flooding.

And the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Flagler Hospital will resume operations at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

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