ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Even though it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, St. Johns County officials said Tropical Storm Ian still left millions of dollars in damage in its wake when it blew through the area last week.
St. Johns County Commissioners were briefed Thursday morning on the damage sustained during Ian across the county.
Officials said 636 homes were damaged by the powerful storm and there were also dozens of high water rescues that first responders said wouldn’t have happened if residents had listened to evacuation orders.
Crews were out Tuesday afternoon all around St. Johns County making repairs.
Early estimates put the total cost of damage at $37.8 million in home damage and potentially millions more to county infrastructure. As expected, most of the damage was along the coastline, in downtown St. Augustine and near the St. Johns River. The county had major flooding in areas along the coast like Porpoise Point, North Beach, Crescent Beach and Flagler Estates.
Downtown saw a 3 to 5-foot storm surge during the height of the storm and around 10 to 20 inches of rain.
In other areas, there were washed-out roads, 33 homes that saw major flooding and one new large breach in the Summer Haven area. Repairs in that troubled area could cost around $18 million.
Areas around the St. Augustine Beach pier saw damage like walkways that were washed away and the pier is closed now for a structural evaluation. That is standard after a storm but it’s not clear when it will reopen, officials said.
On Thursday, as water rushed over the sea wall in downtown St. Augustine, St. Augustine Fire Department Chief Carlos Aviles said his crews had to make 19 high water rescues. There was a total of 26 around the county.
“At one point we had three high water vehicles and two shallow-water boats spread out all throughout the city and we were rapidly overwhelmed. So I got on the phone, I reached out to [St. Johns County Fire Rescue] Chief [Jeff] Prevatt, I think my exact words were ‘Hey, man, I’m drowning. I need some help.’ And they very quickly mobilized some resources,” Aviles said.
St. Johns County Fire Rescue spokesman Jeremey Robshaw said none of those 26 rescues would have been necessary if residents had listened to evacuation orders ahead of the storm.
“In areas where we’ve told people to leave, that becomes a challenge,” Robshaw said. “Obviously those people are at risk. We’re gonna go and help them. But in that process, we’re putting ourselves at risk. And there’s certainly a danger not only from the storm but the fact that we’re exposing ourselves to floodwaters that are potentially contaminated.”
A sailboat that broke free of its mooring during the storm and crashed up against the wall near downtown was still there on Tuesday. The county is still working with FWC to come up with a plan to remove it.
The county said residents whose homes or businesses were damaged need to reach out to FEMA for federal assistance. Individual applications can be submitted online at disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 800-621-3362.