Community Interest

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Hurricane Matthew brought rain and wind to Alachua County accompanied by power outages and downed trees. (Today photo/RAY CARSON)

ALACHUA – Last week, Hurricane Matthew tore its way across the Caribbean and up the southeast coast of the United States. It will rank as one of the most powerful storms, based on sustained wind energy and longevity, with winds over 110 mph for seven days. There were at least 925 deaths, including 19 in the United States, making it the deadliest storm since Hurricane Stan in 2005.

But Alachua County was lucky. There were fears and expectations that Florida would get a direct hit, causing wind damage and power outages over most of the state. But as the storm made its way up the coast, it remained between 30 and 50 miles offshore, lessening the damage inland. For Alachua County, it meant that winds of 35 mph with occasional gusts up to 60 and lighter rainfall than predicted. The brunt of storm hit the local area on Friday Oct. 7. Damage was fairly light for the county and mainly confined to downed trees or downed electrical wires.

According to Lieutenant Brandon Kutner of the Alachua Sheriffs Office, they received 56 calls for downed power lines and 80 calls for downed trees. Although there were sporadic power outages, most of the lines were repaired by Saturday morning. The High Springs Police department received 20 calls, mainly for downed power lines due to falling tree limbs. According to High Springs City Manager Ed Booth, they did have one large tree that fell across the road at 176th Place. It blocked the road and damaged three cars. City crews were able to clear the road by Saturday morning.

The Alachua Fire Department reported no calls or damage reports, as did the LaCrosse Fire Department. In Waldo, City Manager Kim Worley said that they had reports of downed trees, but no power outages. Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency reported they fared well. “We had a couple of power lines go down and power outages to about 5 percent of our residents, but it was resolved quickly. It was a lot less than we feared, but we had services in place,” said Surrency. “It was good to have a dry run to see how well we were prepared.”

Matthew hugged the southeast coast from Florida to North Carolina, causing 2 million people to evacuate inland, tearing up coastal cities with wind and storm surge. The storm surge destroyed State Road A1A in Flager Beach and surged inland in Saint Augustine, flooding the historic downtown with several feet of water. Over a million people were left without power in Florida alone.

The storm made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina, but had weakened from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2. But the tide and storm surge was still devastating, especially to the outer banks of North Carolina, with surges over six feet high. Estimates on the damage for insured loses range between $4 - $6 billion.

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