Jacksonville beaches reopen, residents head home

Jacksonville Beach Pier damaged by Hurricane Matthew's surge

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Jim Piggott - Reporter, News4Jax.com Staff

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Residents of Jacksonville's beaches who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Matthew were lined up and ready when police opened the bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway at noon Saturday, ready to see what the storm left behind.

After surveying Saturday morning, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said it was not as bad as they expected, and that there were no injuries reported. Atlantic Beach officials said they were seeing lots of downed trees, power lines and standing water.

Latham said ice and water will be distributed for those without power at 500 Atlantic Blvd., starting Sunday.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew's aftermath

Heavy rains and strong wind gusts associated with Hurricane Matthew hit Jacksonville Beach hard Friday afternoon, sending water over the dunes and inland to at least 2nd Street and damaging its pier.

Latham said the pier will remain closed until the damage can be assessed.

Alexis Collins said it was hard coming home because she knew there would be damage, and that's what she found. The storm surge flooded her ground floor apartment, and she's worried a lot is ruined.

"This is my first hurricane. I'm from up north," Collins said. "I had no idea this is what it was going to be like at all."

WATCH: Sky 4 surveys damage | Coverage of historic storm

Gary Allen said he sat in his hotel room and watched as news crews showed the flooding occurring at Jax Beach near his home. He was prepared for the worst when he returned Saturday, but couldn't believe what he found.

"I walked in, and it was emotional, there is no doubt," Allen said. "Not a drop. The ice hadn't even melted all the way in the freezer."

Jonathan Ferrell rode out the storm in his oceanfront apartment. Just before the storm on Thursday night, he had a small fire upstairs that he said was caused by the high winds. He said stormwater was lashing at his windows 

"It was horrible. I almost called the Coast Guard," Ferrell said. "We were out here and the waves were peeling right here at these poles. The waves were hitting the glass. These are all of the dunes."

The eyewall of Hurricane Matthew on Friday afternoon had sustained winds of 110 mph as it passed about 40 miles east of Jacksonville Beach, making Matthew an extremely dangerous Category 2 hurricane.

Hurricane Floyd, a massive Category 4 storm, skirted up Florida's east coast in 1999, causing significant damage and destroying the Jacksonville Beach Pier. The pier had to be completely rebuilt. It reopened in 2004 with some structural differences to help it stay standing the next time a hurricane comes through.

MORE: Hurricane Matthew's size, track reminiscent of Floyd in 1999
FROM THE VAULT: Channel 4 news coverage of Floyd

Jacksonville Beach City Manager George Forbes said the last time the city had to evacuate was during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Jacksonville Beach tries to transition back to normal

People were still returning to Jacksonville Beach as the city began trying to return back to normal less than 24 hours after Hurricane Matthew 

"We have been cooped inside for the weekend. You're just out trying to have a good time right now," Tyler Bennett said.

That feeling was evident as many of the bars filled up Saturday night.

"It is a beautiful night. After that horrible hurricane, I'm just glad to come out here and love this beautiful city," Bennett said.

While many Jacksonville Beach residents still have storm debris to cleanup and damage to repair, many just spent the evening trying to relax.

Power outages

Latham said traffic lights are out throughout Atlantic Beach. He said Jacksonville Beach residents who don't have power restored by Sunday should call 247-6171.

JEA advises customers to “please plan for long outage times,” and to be patient. Customers should plan for power to be out for multiple days, JEA said.

Half the utility’s customers lost power because of Matthew.

There are 1,400 JEA personnel working on restoration, and 36 mutual aid crews have been called.

Another 100 JEA personnel are working on tree removal. 

For more on the restoration process, go to jea.com/restoration.

JTA transportation

JTA service will remain suspended on Saturday so first responders can ensure roads are safe and passable. JTA is planning to resume fixed route bus service on Sunday.

Connexion, the paratransit service, will provide life-sustaining trips on Saturday, if roads are passable.

The St. Johns River Ferry will remain closed until it is safe to resume operations. 

JTA is planning to resume operation of the Skyway on Monday.

Thanking first responders

The management at Maple Street Biscuit Company said it wanted to recognize "those who have been serving us," throughout the storm.

The store is offering a free meal Sunday morning at its Jacksonville Beach and Murray Hill locations for all first responders, firefighters, police officers, line men, news reporters and EMTs.

The locations will be open from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. with a limited menu.

The public is welcome to come in as well and order from the limited menu.

Coffee will be free for all, managers said.

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