After Irma, a Grim Sense of Déjà Vu in St. Augustine

After Irma, a Grim Sense of Déjà Vu in St. Augustine


St. Augustine changed hands between the Spanish, the British and the Americans over its long history and, in the late 1800s, Henry M. Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil, began to open hotels. One of those hotels turned into Flagler College, and St. Augustine has become an idyllic city of colleges, museums and tourism.

But on Wednesday, some of the hotels were draining themselves of floodwater and piling mattresses outside. The Lightner Museum, a downtown gem, was closed because it had flooded, and an apparently unmoored sailboat called the Celebration, its mast snapped, was floating in the middle of the river.

Irma’s destruction has left residents and business owners here with a grim sense of déjà vu, especially in the Davis Shores neighborhood, a development across the river, where Leo Guenther looked at the debris piled in front of his house — bathroom cabinets, interior doors, and two twin mattresses — and shook his head.

“All that stuff,” he said, “is new since Hurricane Matthew.”

The shock of a double whammy has extended elsewhere in St. Johns County, where, on Wednesday, inland rivers were still flooding and, north of St. Augustine, and parts of oceanside homes made more vulnerable by Hurricane Matthew had tumbled onto the sand.

“This was our chance to get our beach house,” said Theresa Forrester, a retired postal worker who in June had bought a waterfront home in Ponte Vedra Beach that had lost part of its retaining wall to Hurricane Matthew. She and her partner, Larry Edwards, planned to rehabilitate it. But she said the permit to fix the wall had not come in time, and so Irma had chewed up the houses’s garage and workshop and spit the pieces out onto the sand — and ripped off siding and roof shingles to boot.



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