Severe Weather Blog

In Jacksonville, ‘there’s a lot to be done’ after Hurricane Matthew

More than 215,000 people had no power Saturday in Jacksonville, about a fourth of this city's population.
More than 215,000 people had no power Saturday in Jacksonville, about a fourth of this city's population. bousquet@tampabay.com

Florida’s largest city breathed a sigh of relief Saturday.

Hurricane Matthew left a lot of rain, debris, flooded streets, downed trees and blocked bridges across Jacksonville, but officials said they know of no storm-related deaths in this city of about 850,000.

As Matthew continued spinning up the Atlantic coast, the storm was wreaking havoc in South Carolina by the time Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other city officials gave their first post-hurricane briefing Saturday morning.

“It’s a new day,” Curry said. “We’re on the other side of it now and there’s a lot to be done.”

Evacuation orders will be lifted at noon Saturday.

Bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway to three oceanside communities had to be inspected by the state before they could open. When beach residents return home, they will be under a mandatory boil-water order for the next several days.

“Don’t ride around and sightsee,” said Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams.

Curry said a top priority is restoring power as soon as possible.

Matthew knocked down power poles, destroyed transformers and left wires on the ground.

Jacksonville Electric Authority said about 215,000 people were without power Saturday morning, or about one-fourth of this city’s population.

“We don’t know restoration times,” said JEA spokesman Ted Hobson. “Please plan for long outage times.”

Residents are urged to call 904-630-CITY to report problems.

Matthew’s heavy rains washed out San Marco Boulevard leading to an upscale residential community just south of downtown, but residents who ventured out after sunrise were relieved.

“I never lost power,” said Tony Vecchio, who was out hunting for a cup of hot chocolate at a bakery that was doing a brisk business at 7 a.m. As director of this city’s award-winning zoo, his first priority was making sure that a large menagerie of giraffes, cheetahs and other animals was safe.

“It’s a nice way to catch up on movies and get some reading done,” Vecchio said of the hurricane.

Gov. Rick Scott scheduled a visit to Jacksonville’s Cecil Field Saturday.

He and Curry also planned to make an aerial assessment of Duval and Nassau counties by helicopter.

For the first time in memory, the city’s daily newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, did not publish a print edition. The newspaper’s riverfront building was evacuated before the storm and reporters and editors continued to assemble the paper’s online edition from remote locations.

Matthew is the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida since Wilma ravaged parts of South Florida in 2005.

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