Exploring Anastasia Island post-Hurricane Matthew


Early reports from Anastasia Island were brutal. Hurricane Matthew was reported to have unleashed “catastrophic” damage to the barrier island just south of Jacksonville. And it was personal for me; that’s “my beach” and a family vacation destination for more than 30 years now. As soon as the storm cleared I as on a plane to Florida (Thanks, JetBlue for the assist in changing destination and dates!) and then a car to get to St. Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach and the rest of the island.

Standing water alongside the JAX airport runways
Standing water alongside the JAX airport runways

The approach to Jacksonville International Airport showed standing water in many areas around the region. That is to be expected with the massive rainfall but still worrisome to see in person. Arguably the late season nature of this storm was a blessing on that front; cooler temperatures made it more tolerable in general and hopefully will reduce mosquito breeding in the newly formed pools.

Not surprising that many gas stations were damaged by Hurricane Matthew
Not surprising that many gas stations were damaged by Hurricane Matthew

We were incredibly fortunate as a family; our property was unscathed. We also happen to be on high ground, such as it is, with dunes protecting us on the ocean side and elevation saving us from the storm surge on the intercoastal side. Many others on the island were not so lucky.

Sand dune erosion on Crescent Beach, Butler Beach and St. Augustine Beach was significant. But the dunes protected the buildings inland.
Sand dune erosion on Crescent Beach, Butler Beach and St. Augustine Beach was significant. But the dunes protected the buildings inland.

At the south end of Anastasia Island, near Matanzas Inlet, chunks of road were completely washed away. Old A1A runs right along the waterfront. At least it used to. A Google Street View of the area shows the old asphalt road holding its on, though constantly under attack from the sand and winds.

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That same area today has almost nothing left. The homes are still standing but many saw massive water damage, with waves pushing through the buildings rather than going around.

More Hurricane Matthew damage to buildings at Matanzas Inlet, on the south end of Anastasia Island
More Hurricane Matthew damage to buildings at Matanzas Inlet, on the south end of Anastasia Island
That hole is on both sides of a garage; the water simply went straight through.
That hole is on both sides of a garage; the water from Hurricane Matthew simply went straight through.

And the road is done. Massive chunks of asphalt were upended by the storm surge, pushed inland along with sand and other debris. They now sit as yard decorations rather than as a road. The power of the water in this storm was incredible.

Hurricane Matthew move the road from Old A1A into the front yard of these homes
Hurricane Matthew move the road from Old A1A into the front yard of these homes

Further up the island but still in the lower parts of Anastasia Island the damage was similar. Looking at the exterior of the buildings it is hard to know just how much damage was done. But seeing families piling their entire lives out on the curb for trash collection makes it clear that water intrusion into those homes was significant.

One of many homes along the intercoastal on Anastasia Island damaged by Hurricane Matthew
One of many homes along the intercoastal on Anastasia Island damaged by Hurricane Matthew

Access to the intercoastal side of the island is somewhat restricted through neighborhoods and communities but I know of a few areas that were generally open. Dondaville Road is home to Saltwater Cowboy’s, a waterfront restaurant sitting out on the intercoastal. The situation there is not particularly optimistic. There was obvious storm surge and water damage visible outside the restaurant. It remains to be seen just how well the interior survived.

Saltwater Cowboy's took significant damage from the storm.
Saltwater Cowboy’s took significant damage from the storm.

And then there was the bar last night on A1A Beach, up near the St. John’s County Pier and the heart of St. Augustine Beach as a city. It was packed with locals and visitors alike, all eating and drinking mostly as if things were normal. Sure, the water supply is suspect with a boil requirement for consumption. And telecom services in that area are still struggling to come back online and stabilize. But the kitchen was open and some folks managed to enjoy the experience.

This is supposed to be an intersection at the south end of Anastasia Island. It remains under water thanks to Hurricane Matthew.
This is supposed to be an intersection at the south end of Anastasia Island. It remains under water thanks to Hurricane Matthew.

Further north, into St. Augustine, the reports are similarly bad. I have not ventured up in to that area yet but likely will today.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you , thank you, thank you, Seth. We love St Augustine as well, traveling there annually since 1987 and have worried about our annual trip, scheduled in 2 weeks. Our timeshare is next to the Oasis, and just before I saw your post, we heard that our complex sustained minimal damage, so our trip is on. Thanks to you and others who have posted, we know that some of our favorites are gone for now, but I’m sure we will see the beginnings of the renaissance of St. Augustine and its beach communities in 2 weeks.

  2. Thank you , Seth for this post. My wife and I love St. Augustine and visit every year. I have really scoured the internet for news on the damage from Hurricane Matthew. I had just posted a new picture of Matanzas Innlet Restaurant on my website ( http://staugustineadventure.com ) from our September trip to St. Augustine. Then I found out the restaurant was destroyed by the storm. Really sad to see so much damage on Anastasia Island. But we will be back again next Summer!

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