St. Augustine Strong

I debated on the title for this entry. I had three or four possible titles in mind but I kept coming back to two, “Resilience” and “St. Augustine Strong”. Ultimately I decided to let Jenna make the call.

Here’s the deal…

We spent the weekend in St. Augustine with Jenna for Flagler College’s ‘Family Weekend’ festivities. Maybe the little light has come on in your head and now you’re thinking “St. Augustine, wasn’t that the town we saw so much news coverage about when Hurricane Matthew sideswiped Florida’s Atlantic coast? Wasn’t Flagler College the school where all the flood water was rushing in the open door and down the stairs? Wasn’t St. Augustine the town where we saw the news footage of the people trapped in the hotel and all of the pumpkins from the church floating down the street?” Yes to all of the above. Now you’re also thinking “But that was just two weeks ago, how can St. Augustine be back up and running? Are businesses open? Is it safe? How can Flagler possibly be hosting their Family Weekend this soon after the storm?”

From our point of view, St. Augustine’s story is less about the storm itself but a story of the resilience of people of St. Augustine, strong people…St. Augustine Strong.

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we rolled into town. Given that Flagler decided to go ahead with Family Weekend as planned and not postpone for a few weeks was encouraging. I read a few St. Augustine-related blogs and FaceBook pages these days and was hopeful that we’d find things in relatively good shape in downtown St. Augustine, in Old Town and in the Historic District and, in general, they were. Most businesses were open, though some might have been missing some flooring or drywall. A few were still closed but planned on reopening later this month or next. Only a handful of businesses were damaged to the point that they couldn’t reopen or that reopening wasn’t financially feasible. Bear in mind, we’re talking about St. Augustine proper, not St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach or the rest of the beachfront that bore the brunt of the storm.

Care to see a few examples of what we saw as we wandered around town?

Piles of debris that included ruined furniture, bedding, clothing and other household items and roll-off dumpsters were still found in many locations and ServePro and Service Master trucks and vans were common sights…

chairs

servepro

The flood waters took a toll on lawns, landscaping and trees as well as the buildings in town…

grass

And then there were places one would be hard pressed to be able to tell that much had happened. Do you remember the video of the floodwater rushing into an open door on the Flagler Campus?

flood-door

Fortunately that basement room was just used for storage. The door isn’t completely fixed but that basement room is now dry…and empty…its contents were moved out to dry and allow the room to be dried.

basement-stuff

The water was up to the tops of the hedges in this plaza across the street from Flagler…

lightner-plaza

Not anymore.

We walked over to St. George Street to see what was happening and things seemed to be fairly normal and busy as ever for a Saturday afternoon…

st-george

Even the local favorite popsicle shop was up and running…despite missing its flooring…

the-hyppo

Remember the news photos of the Halloween pumpkins that escaped from the churchyard at the Methodist Church and floated down King Street or into the restaurant parking lot across the street? They’d been corralled and were back in their proper places.

methodist-pumpkins

We ended up bringing one home.

I wish I could say that all is as rosy in St. Augustine as it might seem in this blog entry but to tell the truth, there are folks that are still hurting. There are a few businesses that were lost and many faced losses that will take time to recover. Many lost their possessions and there were some homes that may or may not be salvaged and again, I haven’t even touched on the beachfront.

The thing that really stuck out to me about what happened in St. Augustine in the aftermath of Matthew wasn’t covered by the news. It isn’t the damage that was caused by the storm and it’s really not the extent of the recovery to date. The thing that really stuck out was captured by social media…FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. It was the people of St. Augustine working together, despite any differences they might have had, to clear debris and to make the city inhabitable again, it was the utility linemen working to restore power and vital communications links, it was groups of college students volunteering to help out wherever they could once they were allowed back on campus. It was the resilience of the people of St. Augustine.

#staugustinestrong

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This entry was posted in Flagler, Flagler College, Florida, Hurricane Matthew, Saint Augustine, St. Augustine, staugustinestrong. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to St. Augustine Strong

  1. Kimberly says:

    Great read, Steve. Thank you for sharing.

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