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Hurricane Mathew in October of 2016 was the first hurricane to directly hit St. Augustine Florida since Dora in 1964, bringing floods unlike any since ones recorded in the 1880s, and bringing mass damage unlike anything St.Augustine has at the least recorded. Mathew left the small tourist town traumatized and scrambling to rebuild and to prevent the same level of damage from happening again. However, not even a year later in September of 2017, hurricane Irma’s outer bands leave St. Augustine with damage, though not exactly the same, but very similar to that of Mathews.
The above photos from the neighborhood known as Lighthouse Park gives a good first idea of just how much stronger the winds were this year, leaving more fallen trees than flood damage, where as Mathew left a majority of the island and historic bay front with water damage. The fishing pier at the boat ramp in Lighthouse Park was already damaged during Mathew, but never repaired before Irma, and seems to have only been made more unsafe having been shifted on the concrete pillars that hold the pier. From the same boat ramp one of the many sunken sailboats starts to disappear into high tide, along with various pieces of, both private and public, wooden and or floating docks, either drifting into the salt run or getting washed on shore. One resident of Lighthouse Park who decided to wait out the storm at home rather than evacuating, regardless of living right on the salt run and being part of the first sections to fall under St. Johns counties mandatory evacuation, found themselves stuck in their home when a cedar tree fell over a power line. The power line hanging just inches off the ground left the residents unable to drive out of their driveway, and wasn’t fixed until about 5 days after St. Augustine reopened the island to returning residents.
Having arguably received the worst of the damage during Mathew, the many residents of the Davis Shores area of Anastasia Island would argue Irma left them with a scarcely different experience. With some remnants of the floods this area seems to be prone to lingering near the gutters of the streets, Davis Shores presented DeJa Vu images of families hauling numerous house hold items, furniture, and various debris to steady growing curb side piles. Those whose houses sit either on the salt run or Matanzas inlet also loosing boats and docks, either to the shore line or adrift, once again this year.
St. Augustine’s beloved historic downtown and bay front area suffered far less flood damage during Irma than during Mathew, but was hit with far more downed or uprooted trees and sinking sailboats, seen off the Bridge of Lions. Barges hauling debris steady drifted past said boats, some of which served as homes to residents, in the Municipal marina. The Huegonaught cemetery outside of the old city gates that once was appropriately shaded by aging cedar trees is now nearly unrecognizable due to how many of trees were split, uprooted, and forced down by the winds. Castillo de San Marcos’ usually dry moat was still draining of rain water days after the storm.
Though the damage above is saddening, it is no where near all that could be found in St. Augustine after Irma, and though no where near as bad as Mathew in most of St. Augustine, was far worse in various surrounding areas like those of crescent beach that were struck by a tornado during Irma. But above all, it is wholly acknowledged that the damage done in our little north east corner far from matches the damage done by Irma in south Florida, the Florida keys, and the Caribbean Islands, or even the floods in Texas left by Hurricane Harvey. It simply serves as yet another reminder that you can never be too prepared, and should never take threats of natural disaster lightly.