‘Catastrophic' storm surge damage reported in Anastasia Island

Reentry for Anastasia Island evacuees not expected until Sunday or later

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter, Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter, Brendan Farrington, Holbrook Mohr

A man wades through flood water as he check out damage from Hurricane Matthew in downtown St. Augustine. ; (AP photo by John Bazemore)

There has been "catastrophic" storm surge damage from Hurricane Matthew on the southern part of Anastasia Island, which includes Treasure Beach, Summer Haven and Crescent Beach, according to St. Johns County Sheriff's Office public information officer Chuck Mulligan.

Hundreds of emergency responders from multiple agencies -- SJCSO, St. Johns County Fire Rescue, National Guard, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Department of Law Enforcement -- are assisting residents who did not evacuate, Mulligan said.

Hurricane Matthew threatened St. Augustine, one of the South's most historic and picturesque cities, with ruinous flooding and wind damage as it pushed its way up the coastline. But the entire area of St. Johns County was caught in the crosshairs of the most powerful hurricane to threaten the Atlantic Seaboard in over a decade.

"There are houses that will probably not ever be the same again or not even be there," St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver lamented as battleship-gray floodwaters coursed through the streets of the 451-year-old city founded by the Spanish.

Hurricane Matthew sideswiped Florida's Atlantic coast early Friday, swamping streets, toppling trees onto homes and knocking out power to more than 1 million people. 

St. Augustine, 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.

"It's a really serious devastating situation," the mayor of the city of 14,000 said. "The flooding is just going to get higher and higher and higher."

While the hurricane was weakening quickly, several northeastern Florida cities, including Jacksonville, were still in harm's way, along with communities farther up the coast. Authorities warned that not only could Matthew easily turn toward land, it could also cause deadly flooding with its surge of seawater.

Although weather conditions will eventually improve, roadways will be blocked by trees or debris, traffic signals will be non-operational, many areas will experience significant flooding and downed powerlines, and dangerous wildlife will be displaced to residential areas.

With all beach communities and the city of St. Augustine under a mandatory evacuation that began at 6 a.m. Thursday, St. Johns County fire rescue officials said they will continue to respond to calls in the evacuation zones, but they are ready to leave the barrier islands at the last minute when it becomes necessary.

City of St. Augustine fire stations 1, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 have relocated personnel and apparatus.

St. Johns County opened four additional shelters at midday Thursday and is monitoring to see if more will be needed.

Current St. Johns County shelters open:

  • Pacetti Bay Middle School at 245 Meadowlark Lane St. Augustine 32092 (Special needs)
  • Timberlin Creek Elementary School at 555 Pine Tree Lane St. Augustine 32092 (Pet-friendly)
  • South Woods Elementary School at 4750 State Road 206 West Elkton 32033 (Pet-friendly)
  • Mill Creek Elementary School at 3750 International Golf Parkway St. Augustine 32092
  • Pedro Menendez High School at 600 State Road 206 West St. Augustine 32086
  • Osceola Elementary School at 1605 Osceola Elementary Road St. Augustine 32084
  • Otis Mason Elementary School at 207 Mason Manatee Way St. Augustine 32086
  • Bartram Trail High School at 7399 Longleaf Pine Parkway St. Johns 32259

While shelters provide safety, residents must bring supplies in order to maintain personal comfort and sustenance. St. Johns County recommends that all evacuees bring their own bedding, including sleeping bags or air mattresses, pillows, sheets, and blankets. A three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, medication, diapers, and other personal items are also suggested.

For more information on shelters, including addresses and accommodations, please visit sjcemergencymanagement.org/shetinfo.html.

MORE: What to bring to a shelter

The county remains under a local state of emergency and St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center is at Level 1 activation.

Evacuation Zone A includes residents east of the Intracoastal waterway, including Ponte Vedra Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach, Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach, Butler Beach, Crescent Beach, and Summer Haven. In addition, residents located along the St. Johns River and west of State Road 13.

Evacuation Zone B includes the entire city of St. Augustine and town of Hastings. Residents living in boats, RVs, and mobile homes throughout St. Johns County are also included in the evacuation order.

VIEW: St. Johns County Hurricane Evacuation Zones

St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick and other emergency officials announced the expansion of the mandatory evacuation order Wednesday, which included at least another 30,000 people.

St. Johns County Fire Rescue announced that water utility service to barrier islands was suspended at 8 p.m. Thursday due to the impending hurricane. This includes everything east of the Intracoastal Waterway, including Ponte Vedra, Vilano Beach and Anastasia Island. Water service will not be reinstated until facilities are reinspected, damage is assessed and any repairs are made.

When will evacuees be able to return to their homes?

With over 30,000 St. Johns County residents ordered to evacuate, many people who live in evacuations zones were anxious to find out when they would be allowed to their homes. 

Primary assessment teams made their initial survey of portions of the city of St. Augustine late Friday as Hurricane Matthew subsided.

As of late Friday evening, officials said, it is expected that sometime Saturday, areas of the city of St. Augustine will be available for residents and business owners to return to their properties on the mainland. 

However, it is not expected that the portion of the city on Anastasia Island will be reopened until Sunday or later depending on determination by the city's public safety officials. 

Those who evacuated Anastasia Island should remember that even after returning to their home, it is very likely that water and sewer service may not be immediately available, and power may not be restored in many areas. Services cannot be restored until a full assessment is made of the integrity of utility infrastructure by the city’s engineering division.

Because there may be water and sewer line break it may take several days to have service restored. During the first 48 hours after  water service is restored, customers  should  boil their  water for one minute prior to use for a for a minimum of 48 hours after service is restored as a precaution  against contamination. A  boil  water  notice  will  be  issued  to  affected  areas  so  evacuees  and  those  who remained should have a plan for a fresh water supply, especially if power  is not immediately restored.

During reentry, 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. 

PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew's wake of damage

In addition, please use extreme caution if operating generators.

The city’s Public Works Department will begin work on Saturday morning 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 or visit www.sjcfl.us.

Reentry passes

County officials said that this year, reentry passes will be required for residents and businessmen who evacuate, but the Tax Collector's Office announced Wednesday that it had run out of the passes.

“The passes are useful but not necessary,” said St. Johns County Tax Collector Dennis W. Hollingsworth. “We provide these passes as a courtesy to facilitate entry, but other proofs of address will be accepted in the event of an evacuation.”

The following are acceptable forms of proof of residency to gain reentry to the islands:

  • Driver License
  • Vehicle registration
  • Utility bill

Such identification is not necessary for residents or businesses in the main part of St. Johns County. Only residents on the islands will be asked to provide proof of address to access the islands in the event an evacuation takes place.

Reentry passes are still available for businesses located on the barrier islands. Business passes will only be provided to business owners or managers who bring in the current Business Tax Receipt to any location of the St. Johns County Tax Collector.

For additional information about reentry to barrier islands after an evacuation, please visit www.sjcemergencymanagement.org.

Flagler Hospital on lockdown

Flagler Hospital has a comprehensive hurricane plan in place, which is designed to provide the safest possible environment for patients and staff during and after hurricane conditions. At this time, the Hospital has activated its incident command system and is completing all the necessary preparations appropriate for the current hurricane tracking projections.

For the safety of its patients, the hospital instituted its lockdown policy, beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, receiving only emergency patients and scheduled staff. The hospital also moved the ER to the second floor on Friday as a precaution in case of flooding.

The hospital asked visitors to please not attempt to seek shelter at the hospital.  

Also, the following services are closed to the public through Monday. If you had a surgery or procedure scheduled during that timeframe, you will be contacted to reschedule.

  • Outpatient Surgery
  • Flagler Surgery Center
  • Cardiac Cath
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Infusion Services
  • Imaging Center
  • Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic

Please also note that the outpatient Flagler laboratories located on 312 and in Murabella will also be closed. The hospital has ample resources in place to sustain current operations and the facility is fully functional.

Closures, changes

The following information relates to  a variety of closures, cancelations and notices throughout St. Johns County due to Hurricane Matthew:

  • All state offices will be closed Thursday and Friday in St. Johns County.
  • The St. Johns County Court House will be closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Waste Collection – Garbage, recycling, and yard debris will not be collected Thursday, October 6 or Friday, October 7. Thursday and Friday garbage and recycling will be collected on Monday, October 10. Monday and Tuesday garbage and recycling will be collected on Tuesday, October 11. No yard debris will be collected until Wednesday, October 12.
  • County Closures – With the exception of Emergency Operations, St. Johns County will close all offices on Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7. County operations decisions beyond Friday will be determined based on weather conditions.
  • City of St. Augustine – Government offices for the City of St. Augustine will be closed on Thursday and Friday. Additionally, solid waste collections will cease operations. The public is urged to place all trash and recycling containers in a secure location, as well as any other outdoor items that may create a hazard during high winds.
  • City of St. Augustine Beach – Government offices for the City of St. Augustine Beach will be closed Thursday and Friday.
  • St. Johns County School District – The St. Johns County School District has closed schools for Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7 in response to Hurricane Matthew. An announcement with more detailed information will be forthcoming via their mass communication system using text, phone, and email.
  • Public Transportation – St. Johns County routine para-transit service and the Sunshine Bus System will be closed Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7. Saturday services for both entities will be determined subject to condition evaluations.
  • Beaches – As of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning St. Johns County beaches will be closed to vehicular traffic due to heavy surf and high tides expected from Hurricane Matthew.  St. Johns County Marine Rescue is expecting dangerous Red Flag conditions and is asking that beachgoers do not enter the water under any circumstances until storm conditions have subsided.
  • St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency Meeting – The St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency regular meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 6 has been canceled due to Hurricane Matthew. The meeting has been continued to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 13.
  • Parks and Monuments – The Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas will be closed Thursday, October 6 through Saturday, October 8. Additionally, Anastasia State Park will be evacuated on Wednesday, October 5 and will remain closed through Friday.
  • St. Johns County Parks and Recreation – All St. Johns County athletic fields will be closed through Sunday, October 9. Fields are anticipated to reopen on Monday, October 10. Additionally, all athletic events scheduled through Saturday, October 8 are canceled.
  • St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier – The pier will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 5. A determination of reopening will be made once the storm passes the area and after damage is assessed.
  • Pokémon GO Event – The St. Johns County Pokémon GO event originally scheduled for Saturday, October 8 has been postponed. A new date will be determined soon and all preregistered participants will be notified.
  • Basketball Clinics – All clinics scheduled for Wednesday, October 5 and scrimmages scheduled for Saturday, October 8 have been cancelled. Clinics will resume their normal schedules on Monday, October 10.
  • Solomon Calhoun Center Pool – The Solomon Calhoun Center Pool will be closed on Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7.
  • Adult Softball – Men’s Thursday night softball games have been cancelled. Games will resume their normal schedule as of Monday, October 10.
  • Adult Beach Volleyball – Adult Beach Volleyball League open courts scheduled for Thursday, October 6 have been cancelled. Additional dates for open courts will be held on Monday, October 10, Tuesday, October 11, and Thursday, October 13. Starting dates for the leagues have been postponed, with Men’s League beginning October 17, Women’s League beginning October 18, and Co-ed Doubles and 4-player leagues beginning October 20. For more information, please call 904-209-0344.
  • St. Johns County Libraries – All St. Johns County Public Libraries will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 5 and will remain closed through Friday, October 7. Library book drops will be locked throughout the storm. Due dates during this time will be extended through Saturday, October 15.
  • St. Johns County Property Appraiser – The St. Johns County Property Appraiser’s office will close at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 5 and will remain closed through Friday, October 7. The office will reopen on Monday, October 10.
  • After School Programming – All after-school programming scheduled for Thursday, October 6 and Friday, October 7 has been canceled. Participants will be notified via email should additional cancelations occur.
  • Florida School for the Deaf and Blind – The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind will be closed Wednesday, October 5 through Friday, October 7 due to Hurricane Matthew. 
  • Trails Symposium – The St. Johns County Trails Symposium scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on October 5 has been canceled due to inclement weather as a result of Hurricane Matthew. A new date will be determined and announced when available.
  • Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – All concerts scheduled for October 6 and 7 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall have been postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. New dates and times will be determined and all tickets purchased will be honored at the rescheduled events.
  • St. Johns Fall RV Show – The St. Johns Fall RV Show originally scheduled for October 6 through 9 has been canceled due to Hurricane Matthew.
  • All office locations of the St. Johns County Tax Collector will be closed for business Thursday Oct. 6 and Friday Oct. 7 in preparation of Hurricane Matthew’s approach. Regular business is anticipated to resume Monday, Oct. 10, at all locations. Limited services are still available online at www.sjctax.us.