By Lydia Corbin
As the global warming crisis continues to rise, hurricanes and their long-lasting effects are worsening. Coastal towns, like St. Augustine, are suffering the consequences of hurricanes and their subsequent impacts.
Although St. Augustine does not always get the brunt of hurricanes from being located on the Atlantic coast, the city nonetheless has potential threats every hurricane season.
Debora Figueroa Nieves, natural sciences professor at Flagler College, believes that hurricane conditions will only grow stronger due to environmental factors.
“I have never witnessed hurricanes ranging to category four or five until more recently. I believe it’s all associated with climate change and the ocean water getting warmer. With our own environmental burdens we create, the conditions are getting worse and we are experiencing the consequences of our own actions,” Nieves said.
Nieves explained that hurricanes don’t just impact us as humans, but they also affect wildlife, the economy, our beaches and St. Augustine as a whole.
“Every-time we have big storm surges, it impacts the dunes on our beaches and can create animal displacement as well as destroy animal habitats. Flooding and storm surges bring in so much pollution and debris and eventually can change our coastline,” Nieves said. “Our economy can be impacted for months with businesses shutting down or dealing with the aftermath of the storms. A lot of resources are used every hurricane season, including first-responders who are responsible for risking their lives for others. There’s just so many risks.”
With relation to St. Augustine being the nation’s oldest city, drainage and roadways aren’t designed for this type of flooding.
“The water flows into the storm drains, but when there is too much flooding, the water cannot infiltrate into soil and there is just a surplus of water,” Nieves said. “This causes risks of pollution and the wastewater treatment plant here in St. Augustine can’t handle that amount of water as well. This then leads to discharge from the plant which can threaten marine life too.”
While environmental burdens are a huge factor during hurricane season, Florida native and local business owner, Jen Goodrich, has seen how much hurricanes can hurt town civilians and businesses as well.
“Although my business, Peace, Love and Little Donuts, has only been open for a year, we have had to board up for three different hurricanes and tropical storms,” Goodrich said. “Every-time, it is a huge stressor as we are located on Cathedral Place in the plaza, and there are huge storm surges that come by the Bridge of Lions. We had up to twelve-inches of water flood into our back kitchen during Hurricane Ian.”
St. Augustine local, and Flagler College Dining Hall staff member, Joe Maypray, has lived in St. Augustine for 38 years and never experienced hurricanes as bad as in recent years.
“Hurricane Matthew was the one my family and I were impacted by most, and after years of remodels and repairs on our house due to the storm, Hurricane Ian destroyed our house again,” Maypray said. “Our house is passed down from my mother and something I didn’t want to let go of, but now I have to sell because we can’t take the flooding and damages caused by the hurricanes there.”
Though our current hurricane season is coming to a close, Floridians and those living in coastal cities should always be prepared for potential threats.
“Get provisions, especially water, nonperishables, and pack your car, make sure you have gas and cash, from my personal experience, take everything important you can with you,” Maypray said.
With the escalating severity of hurricanes, it emphasizes the need to limit the effects our environmental burdens have.
For more information on how you can take measures to lessen the impacts of hurricanes, visit https://www.c2es.org/content/hurricanes-and-climate-change/