Hurricane Matthew luckily spared most of Florida the damage and loss of life that was feared after the storm shifted west, but there was still a toll, particularly in low lying coastal regions that suffered more from the flooding than from a direct hit.
Shuttered homes and shelters discharged those citizens that hadn’t evacuated to survey the aftermath. In Broward County, the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier was closed to the public and power lines were down along Southeast Fifth Street and Southeast Sixth Avenue, but by noon Friday the beach was back to something resembling normalcy.
Further north, Floridians weren’t so lucky – historic St. Augustine in Saint John’s County took a serious pounding as the storm surge swept through and did major damage. St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver mourned houses that were swept away or so severely damaged that their repair is unlikely. St. Augustine has a static population of just 14,000, and was originally founded by the Spanish in 1565. Seas pushed by Matthew swept up over the seawall and into the Ancient City , inundating landmarks such as the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, the Spanish Military Hospital Museum and the Old City Gate; further up the Bay, the historic Casablanca Inn saw several dozen holdouts who refused to evacuate stranded on the steps.
Even further up the coast, Ferdinanda Beach in Nassau County saw 10 foot storm surges, and city officials say their biggest challenge was people refusing to evacuate. While glad the storm wasn’t worse, they say the trend bodes ill for the future if the coast experiences a direct hit – people have become unconcerned about the potential danger after so many years without major hurricane damage to the Florida coast.
South Carolinians weren’t as lucky as Floridians – after skipping along Florida’s coastline, the storm dumped major water tonnage on SC’s coast, and flooding has continued to be a major problem for North Carolinians as NC’s rivers swell to bursting. Over 15 inches of rainfall didn’t help, with the area already saturated from record rainfall in September, when Tropical Storm Julia hovered off the coast.
Those seeking to help victims of Hurricane Matthew are encouraged to seek out reputable charities, to donate blood, and to volunteer if they are in the area. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are active in the area, and for those seeking to help victims of the much worse detestation in Haiti, USAID activated a Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) in the area in advance of the storm, and prepositioned relief items for 8,000 households. DART personnel will coordinate airlifts of additional supplies into the area as weather conditions permit. CARE, Project Hope, and World Vision are all excellent places to start; more information can be found here.