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Residents In Areas Affected By Hurricane Matthew Begin Clean Up


To Hurricane Matthew news now. The storm has stayed offshore. It plowed up the southeast Atlantic coast, and it's weakened. Now it's a category one storm. NPR's Greg Allen has been following it in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: From Florida to North Carolina, governors and emergency managers have taken Matthew's threat seriously. It entered Florida waters as a major hurricane with the potential to cause catastrophic damage and loss of life. Because the storm stayed offshore, coastal communities didn't experience Matthew's full strength. But North Florida, Georgia and now South Carolina - the hurricane storm surge has caused significant flooding. In St. Augustine, one of the nation's oldest settlements, Mayor Nancy Shaver says the flooding began in her town yesterday before the hurricane even arrived.

NANCY SHAVER: Right after high tide, just the tropical storm winds on the edge of Matthew had our entire downtown pretty much flooded.

ALLEN: Shaver estimates less than half of St. Augustine residents heeded the evacuation order and were stranded in their homes without power and running water. She says the city will begin a damage assessment today.

SHAVER: We've been around for 450 years - 451, actually - and we'll clean it up and keep going.

ALLEN: It was a similar situation in Jacksonville. Mayor Lenny Curry said much of what emergency managers had predicted - fallen trees, crushed cars, flooded homes - had come to pass. He was asked whether he breathed a sigh of relief that Matthew's track shifted east, and it missed making landfall in Florida.

LENNY CURRY: Am I somewhat relieved that it moved a bit? Yes, but we expected a bad storm. From what we can see that's happening at the beaches and what they've been telling us in even other parts of our city, this was a serious - it remains a serious storm.

ALLEN: In South Carolina today, flooding from storm surge remains the major concern. After days of pleading with residents to evacuate, yesterday Governor Nikki Haley had a new message.


NIKKI HALEY: Really, the best thing now is to just hunker down. Stay in a safe place. Don't move - don't try and move around. Be prepared for flooding. If you are in a low-lying area or in any of those coastal areas, get to your highest floor of your house.

ALLEN: In Vero Beach, Fla., yesterday residents were taking down their storm shutters and picking up tree branches. Damage there was minimal, even though Matthew's eye passed within 45 miles of the coast. On Gardenia Avenue, Jack Markford was one of several residents who stayed to ride out the storm.

JACK MARKFORD: Well, it wasn't really all that bad. I slept most of the night. I - you know, I've been through - this as my sixth hurricane, and I can tell you - Jeanne was a lot worse (laughter).

ALLEN: That was in 2004. In Vero Beach, Matthew's impact was most apparent at the beach. High waves and storm surge washed away a sand dune that used to connect the town's boardwalk to the street. The day after the storm Nick Varola was one of many residents who came out to inspect the damage.

NICK VAROLA: Usually, this dock is just connected to land, but there's about an eight-foot gap, so we're just suspended in the air.

ALLEN: The National Hurricane Center says Matthew will continue to weaken as it heads north and eventually out to sea. Forecasts call for loop back next week for a possible second pass at Florida. By then, though, it's expected to be a tropical depression. Greg Allen, NPR News, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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