Some St. Augustine businesses, residents face long recovery after Ian

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Cleanup was underway Friday in St. Augustine for homes and businesses affected by Ian.

The effects of Ian turned streets into lakes. A day after the storm passed through, there was still debris and standing water in some areas of the historic city.

It will be days or even months for those who were hit hard to rebuild.

There was standing water in some downtown St. Augustine roads on Friday. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)

Michelle Trainor owns venture Pet downtown with her husband. It’s a few blocks west of the riverfront. She said they boarded up for the storm. She said that as a result of drivers speeding through downtown and creating wakes, about a half inch of water covered the floor.

“The flooring and everything was ruined,” Trainor said. “The entire inside of the shop was wet, and that was the case for every single one of these businesses.”

Ian’s winds also brought damage, bringing down ancient tree branches on Alexa Paint and Body Shop in St. Augustine. John Drago works there.

“There’s usually a buffer behind us, but they have cleared all that for land use or whatever, and when they cleared that, that now broke it open for the winds, for the rain,” said John Drago, who works there.

He says too much development is contributing to flooding in the city.

“It’s affecting everything — animals to the people who lived here their whole life,” he said. “Need to slow down, I think.”

Owner Jim Alexa said he started this business after he got out of the military in the ‘50s His life’s work paused for now — but not over yet. He said he’s “most definitely” going to rebuild.

On Friday afternoon, he said he was without power with no word on when it might come back on.

Davis Shores neighborhood

In the flood-prone South Davis Shores neighborhood on Anastasia Island, people were taking stock of the damage on Friday.

A lot of homes there took on water Thursday. The standing water in the roadway has receded, but piles of debris and belongings could be seen in front of people’s houses on Friday.

News4JAX on Friday spoke with Lucia Fernandez, who was home as her house in South Davis Shores — which she closed on a little more than a year ago — flooded Thursday.

“It just started rising and rising and rising,” Fernandez said.

Cleanup was underway Friday in St. Augustine for homes and businesses affected by Ian.

She evacuated with her daughter and dog before high tide Thursday night. She talked with News4JAX about what it was like going back the next day.

“I guess I just felt sick to my stomach as we were approaching, even going across the Bridge of Lions, and I thought, ‘OK. I know what to expect. I know it’s going to be messy. It’s going to be flooding,” Fernandez said. “But I literally I thought I was going to throw up. But then walking in, of course, there are flies starting to accumulate. There are smells.”

Inside, the ground is slick with mud, and the walls and furniture are marked where the water rose.

“It’s like you work really hard to have the things that you’ve earned and then to see them just kind of floating away,” she said.

She said she expects to deal with the fallout of this flooding from Ian for the next year, and although she’s lost a lot, she has her family and insurance. And even as she comes to terms with the consequences of Ian that she wasn’t expecting, she knows others in south Florida have it worse and she’s trying to find a silver lining.

“I’m a person of prayer and God first, you know, so I know the most difficult times of my life God has been there and I know that I have a choice to become a victim or victorious situation and this was just another situation of a trial, another opportunity where I can learn from it and I’ll be a better person for it, I’ll be a better Realtor for it,” she said. “This will help me in so many ways for people moving here.”

She said everyone has been wonderful in reaching out to help. She is a single mother of six, and she said it’s hard for her to be in a position where she’s the one in need since she is used to taking care of everyone else. Some of her friends have created a GoFundMe page to help.

Along Gerado Street, some residents of Davis Shores erected a wall lined with sandbags and pumps in front of their homes to keep the floodwaters away.

“The height of the water was probably three feet outside. We had maybe six to eight inches on the inside and our pumps took care of that,” said resident Anothny Frevele.

Frevele said he and his wife experience a sewage backup inside their home, but they said it could’ve been worse.

“We would’ve probably had three to five feet of water inside our house,” said his wife, Mandy.

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