Rebuilding after Matthew

By Max Charles |
ST. AUGUSTINE – St. Augustine was among the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Matthew. Although hurricane tracker maps on had Hurricane Matthew being much stronger, the devastation to many St. Augustine homes is everywhere. Take a stroll down Vilano Beach and you can witness Mother Nature’s true power. Debris and wood planks litter the beach, beautiful homes along State Road A1A in shambles, some beyond repair.
One Vilano resident, Max McCabe, evacuated before the storm to avoid the hurricane’s destruction, fearing it could tear apart his beachside home. McCabe came home to find warped floors, destroyed furniture, ruined personal belongings and marks on the walls suggesting the flood waters in his home rose to nearly 4 feet before receding.
“It was crazy, I thought it was gonna be bad, but not this bad,” said McCabe. McCabe’s home is now deemed to be unlivable by his landlord and he will not be able to return for at least a month. A large orange “X” is now spray painted onto McCabe’s home and dozens of other homes along the beach forcing people to find a new place to live.

McCabe, a student of Flagler College applied for a place to stay in the Lewis dormitory building until his home is fixed. The College is working with students to help them find a place to stay and live life with as little stress as possible so that they can focus on their studies and what is important. The problem is, McCabe was granted a bed in the dorms for one month and if his home is not fixed and furnished by the time the month is up he will have no place to go.
“Flagler was nice enough to let me live in the dorms for now, but I don’t know what will happen when the month is up.”
For McCabe and other students with serious damage to their homes, this is only a temporary solution to the problem.
According to St. Johns County Emergency Manager Michael Wanchick, St. Johns County is sustained an estimated $2 Billion dollars in damage. Washed away fishing boats and docks could be found in neighboring yards after the storm. Videos also surfaced of residents kayaking about the neighborhood as the storm waters took hold of the city.
Residents who evacuated St. Augustine for the storm found themselves stuck in heavy traffic on Florida highways returning to assess their homes.
“Residents returning to the evacuated areas on Anastasia Island should remember that even after returning home, water and sewer services may not be immediately available and power may not be restored in many areas. A boil water notice will be issued to affected areas,” wrote the county addressing distressed residents.
Some people returned to find their situation worse than others. Steven Ho, a 26-year-old resident of St. Augustine who had his home ripped apart by the storm.
“I bagged up some of my important stuff but I lost a good amount of clothes and school papers and lots of old photos and sentimental items.”
Ho went to Jacksonville to ride out the storm with his family but was devastated upon his return.
“I can’t even live in my house any more,” said Ho. “I spent hours bringing all my furniture and bed to the curb.”
Ho cleaned out his apartment to make way for his landlord to assess the mess.
“They have to pump the water out of my house and strip the walls, the plumbing is all messed up, not to mention the air conditioner, I wont be able to live here for a while.”
Ho lives in downtown St. Augustine near the corner of Riberia and King Street. Although the hurricane was thought to become a Category 4 or 5 storm, it only ended up being a Category 3 when it made landfall with St. Augustine. Regardless the size, the formation of the hurricane pushed the storm surge right onto St. Augustine and St. Johns County. The water levels rose to almost 3 feet in some areas of St. Augustine and washed out homes like that of Ho.
Ho is currently living in a hotel provided by Flagler College. The college is making arrangements with students displaced by the storm to pace them in hotels or dorms until their homes are deemed livable.
Ho says the storm has made him mad, “but valuables are replaceable, the sentimental things are what hurt.”

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