Video footage shows intense Hurricane Ian storm surge breaching a sea wall and flooding downtown St. Augustine Thursday morning, an hour before the coastal city was expected to experience high tide.
Hurricane Ian has exited its path through Florida and has been downgraded to a tropical storm in the western Atlantic Ocean as of Thursday afternoon, but the National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects the storm to again intensify into a hurricane as it makes landfall in South Carolina Friday morning. Effects from the storm are still being felt along the Florida’s eastern coast, including in St. Augustine, just south of Jacksonville, where county officials are comparing the flood levels to those of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“Serious flooding here in St. Augustine due to [Hurricane Ian] and almost an hour until high tide,” WGRZ reporter Michael Wooten tweeted. “We are pretty much trapped at our hotel.”
Wooten’s video shows a man trudging through thigh-deep floodwaters and two people floating through the flood on a kayak while displaying an American flag.
First Coast News anchor Jessica Clark also shared concerning footage of a storm surge crashing over a sea wall in St. Augustine.
“The water is almost over the seawall in downtown St. Augustine…and we haven’t hit the peak of high tide yet,” Clark tweeted this morning.
St. Augustine issued warnings to its residents to stay home and not venture out into flooded roadways. The NHC estimates storm surges to peak at 1 to 3 feet, and St. Augustine’s high tide around noon exacerbated the flooding.
St. Johns County, the county in which St. Augustine sits, conducted a press conference Thursday afternoon. Administrator Hunter Conrad said the city was still experiencing winds at 35 to 50 miles per hour and “significant flooding” in St. Augustine.
“We are going to continue to feel the effects of this storm all the way through the night,” Conrad said. “This is a significant storm event.”
St. Johns County Fire Chief Jeffrey Prevatt said the fire department has responded to well over 300 rescue calls of people trapped in their homes by flooding.
Conrad said the city’s surge levels may have already peaked, as St. Augustine won’t experience another high tide until between 10 p.m. and midnight. At that point, Conrad said the storm will be north of Jacksonville.
National Weather Service (NWS) Warning Coordination Meteorologist Al Sandirk told Newsweek that areas along Florida’s east coast are experiencing storm surges near Hurricane Matthew levels. He said damage to the coastal towns is unknown, but at Flagler Beach, just south of St. Augustine, the large wave action was tossing erosion control rocks onto the pier.
“Elsewhere, flooding along the intercoastal waterways and beaches is equivalent to [Hurricane] Irma,” Sandirk said.
Sandirk told Newsweek the storm is expected to intensify again later today and be bumped back up to hurricane status by the time it makes landfall in South Carolina this evening. Many coastal towns have one more high tide cycle today, and as the storm transforms to hurricane forces once again, increased wave action is to be expected offshore in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.
“We are concerned tonight that large wave action will push through dunes weakened by the two previous tides that have gone through,” Sandirk said. “Areas with beach crossovers will have significant over wash.”
Sandirk said there is potential for damage of beach infrastructure along Florida’s northeast coast later today.
For current updates on Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ian, visit our live blog.
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