(Posted Oct. 13, 2016)
days after Matthew wandered through town and created a
lake here on Avenue Menendez, we are up and running.
There are over 250 businesses that are up and running
and welcoming guests in the tourist industry. We have
over 30 hotels with over 5000 rooms ready to be
occupied.” With these words Richard Goldman,
President/CEO of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the
Beaches Visitors and Convention Center, made it clear
not even a hurricane can dampen the spirit of the people
of St. Johns County.
|Speakers at press
conference. (L to R) Richard Goldman, Cindy
Stavely, Joe Finnegan, Carol Dover, and Will
Standing on the porch of the Pirate
and Treasure Museum, one of those attractions that are
open and welcoming visitors even as we attended the
press conference to announce that fact to the world, we
watched visitors not only here but across the street in
historic Castillo de San Marcos and next door in the
Filled trolleys plied the street
informing visitors about the history of America’s oldest
city. The sun shone brightly and a light breeze wafted
across the bayfront. Such a perfect day it was hard to
believe the fury that occurred here only a few days ago.
One example of how this turnaround
is occurring is the Pirate and Treasure Museum. Cindy
Stavely, Executive Director of this museum and several
other St. Augustine properties told how she learned what
was happening during Matthew. “We had about 5 inches of
water inside the museum. Somebody sent me a video on
Friday. This whole courtyard was under water and I was
20 miles west of here evacuated with my horses. I was
freaking out not knowing ‘cause it wasn’t even high tide
yet…. 7 o’clock on Sat morning I came here. All the
water was gone.
I called a cleaning company at 8 am.
By 9:30 they
were here and sucked all the water out. Had this whole
property cleaned and ready for dryers by noon on
the artifacts were fine, just ready to be dried and
cleaned up… I had these floor pulled out that morning
and replaced by 4 pm. It’s like a better Pirate
Museum…It’s amazing to me how quickly after seeing the
water that was here but that’s what St. Augustine is all
Joe Finnegan, owner of St Francis
Inn, which has withstood whatever nature chose to throw
at it since 1791 told how he got the inn back so quickly
also. “It stood up to Matthew unfortunately Matthew
didn’t watch the door so some water got in. But we are
back up and running thanks to a great staff that came in
and worked around the clock we’ve been up and running
since Tuesday. We work together to get things done so
our visitors can have a great experience.”
Carol Dover, Executive Director of
Florida Lodging Association and Will Seccombe, President
and CEO of Visit Florida also spoke of their love of St
Augustine and how important it is to preserve these
After the conference I walked over
to Castillo de San Marcos. It was just the way it has
been since 1672 when the city was already over 100 years
old. People were
reading the informational signs and waiting for the
ranger led tour. From looking out at the shrimp boats in
the bay and seeing the sun reflect off the giant cross
where Pedro Menendez landed over 450 years ago I could
see no signs of the raging torrent this had been just
six days ago. Peering into the lowest level portions of
the old fort, everything was clean and waiting to teach
visitors about the history this precious relic of bygone
days has seen.
I strolled over to St. George
Street and saw the happy hum of businesses feeding and
entertaining visitors. A pair of street musicians was
ensconced on one of the side streets. A musician was on
stage in one of the courtyard restaurant. Art galleries
and shops were open. You can get a feeling of all the
attractions available to make a wonderful vacation spot
in this article.
Sure there were a few that had not
yet opened. I could see crews busy inside bringing
opening day nearer. So as Cindy Stavely said, this is what St
Augustine is all about! So if you were considering a
trip here, or even if you weren’t, come on down and see
what St Augustine is all about. Their hashtag tells it
(Posted Oct. 12, 2016)
Shands Bridge connecting Green Cove Springs in Clay
County with St. Johns County was reopened late Sunday so
I was able to cross the St. Johns River and check out
one of my favorite places to see the damage Hurricane
Matthew left in his wake. The damage was devastating and widespread but I am happy to report St. Augustine
although thoroughly drenched and covered with fallen
trees but is recovering. Here is a totally unofficial
but eyewitness photo report of a few of the places I
visited. Bear in mind I only drove through a small part
of the county so this is superficial but I hope helpful
if you are wondering how St. Augustine is faring. I
didn't get to Vilano Beach which is the worst hit area
of the county.
ThThe worst of the damages in both
Clay and St. Johns counties appeared to be from water
and trees downed by the wind rather than as was the case
in Flagler County, massive wind damage to structures.
Naturally there were many structural; damages but not as
bad as I feared.
On the Clay County side of the river in Green Cove
Springs, the pier on Walnut Street is badly damaged.
Hard to tell if the park is damaged since they have been
doing construction on the new swimming pool and all is
still in chaos. Ronnie's Wings is open and serving
their great wings. Waitress there said there was just a
little water inside they needed to clean up.
As you can see debris, looks like a part of a
smaller pier, is washed up along the river banks.
Appears to be damage to boats in the river and
private piers. As you can see water levelis still very
Judging by water still standing behind the house on
the corner of the pier that is under construction there
was a lot of water came ashore.
We checked on one of the feral cat colonies in
Green Cove Springs and fed at least five cats who are
alive and well. Not revealing the location for obvious
reasons but any of my cat people friends in Clay County
who feed and care for those cats will recognize it.
The dockyard along Hwy 16 leading to Shands Bridge
appears in pretty good shape but at least one boat is
washed up on the banks. Could not get close enough to
really appraise any damage.
SShands Pier which is a popular fishing and boat
docking spot that parallas the Shands Bridge is almost
gone and probabaly will never be repaired.
Trees are uprooted or snapped along hwy 16 on both
sides of the bridge.br>
On the St. Johns side, power company and tree
cutters are busy repairing downed power lines. Several
are still visible on the ground. Probably workers are
leaving old dead lines where they are until they put up
the new ones and will then remove the downed ones. Power
trucks are all over the county working hard.
Traveling south along Hwy 13 it is obvious the roads
were impassable after Matthew passed. Huge trees have
been cut and moved from the highway. Many just pul;led
up roots and all and tumbled on homes and fences. This
uprooted tree is just across the street from the
river on 13.
Across from it, the family's pier and much of the
boat house is gone.
You can still see traces of the sand which must have
covered hwy 13. This is pretty much the way it
looks along the entire stretch from the bridge on to Hwy
214. Much worse in some places so that this was the only
safe spot I coudl pull off the road that wasn't covered
with limbs. Hwy 214 becomes King Street, the main road
leading to the historic district and the Bridge of
Lions, in St. Augustine.
As we traveled into the historic district on King
Street, water that once covered much of the area is now
gone. Business are trying to get back to normal. San
Sebastian Winery looked undamaged structurally but again
I didn't see inside and know they had massive flooding.
I turned down Riberia Street to check out the new St.
Augustine Distillery and was relieved to see it looking
pretty good structurally.
I am positive there was water damage inside as
across the street, each house had tons of water damaged
furniture, insulation and sheetrock on the curb.
Many of you may remember the old Colee Carriage
Stable at 650 Ribera across from the distillery. It has
much of the roof blown off. The building had been empty
for quite awhile so no danger to horses or anyone due to
Lincolnville area also appears to have a lot of
furniture and tree limbs along the curb and tarps on
On A1A at St. Augustine Beach, the pier seems
undamaged but is boarded up and closed.
There again a lot of debris is washed up nearby.
Some cranes indicate hard work and huge pile of sand
appears to have been brought to the site rather than
washed up there.
There are some tarps on some roofs here and I
suspect all over the county.r>
One of my FB friends
has a lot of the storm coverage and photos as she lives
in St. Augustine Beach. Her page is at
Local news just
reported St. Johns County will continue under a State of
Emergency Conditions until next Tuesday, Oct 18th.