By Mallory Hopkins and Katie Garwood | firstname.lastname@example.org
As storm surges up to four feet rushed through downtown St. Augustine, turning streets into rivers, severe destruction seemed as if it were the only possible outcome.
And while some did face damage to their homes and businesses, the overall feeling among residents was that Hurricane Matthew was not nearly as bad as it could have been.
Matthew struck St. Augustine as a category three storm, with wind gusts up to 80 mph. But the winds, although they took down trees, branches, and traffic signs, were not the biggest culprit. It was the storm surge, which blew past the sea wall protecting the city, inundating most of the downtown area.
On Thursday prior to the storm, 30,000 St. Johns County residents were asked to evacuate to escape what officials expected to be “catastrophic damage.” Zones A and B were evacuated, Zone A being Anastasia Island and Zone B being parts of downtown St. Augustine.
“Leaving everything you own behind and wondering if it will be there when you get back is heartbreaking, and even with older kids you’ve got to remain calm which isn’t easy at all,” said Jacqueline Maynard Marhcese, who evacuated from her St. Augustine home to Venice, Fla.
Jack Cheney and Marcus Osterhouse were on the Flagler College campus during the duration of the storm. Cheney’s dad is the head of maintenance at the college, allowing them to stay in Kenan Hall, with food and water supplied. They felt it was a privilege to have been able to watch the hurricane come in from the center of downtown.
“No one should’ve been downtown, that didn’t have the opportunity we did,” said Cheney.
They were trying to update their social media accounts during the hurricane, in an effort to quell everyone’s concern that it would be fatal to the city.
“People saying that our city’s never going to be the same, and that’s just crazy,” Osterhouse said. Neither thought the storm was quite as bad as predicted, or as bad as it could have been.
Cheney had his house in Davis Shores flooded with about 19 inches of water. He said he was lucky though, because many residents who live in similar places are required to have flood insurance.
“It’s absolutely devastating to see your home just completely ruined, but it’s nothing compared to the people who don’t have that fall-back card,” Cheney said.
Cheney considers the victims who lost their lives to the hurricane and feels that St. Augustine definitely took a hit, but that it could’ve been worse. Relief efforts are underway to help those whose homes were damaged, lost power or made uninhabitable.
“Yes, we had a bad storm,” he said. “But we absolutely have the means to make it right.”