Now time to assess damage as Hurricane Matthew passes Northeast Florida

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Hurricane Matthew flows over a seawall Friday in St. Augustine. (Associated Press)

Hurricane Matthew, a Category 2 storm about 55 miles east by northeast of Mayport, was not the catastrophic event the region feared in recent days, but it walloped Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine, caused widespread power outages, felled trees and flooded roads.

Beaches residents who fled the storm should go to bed Friday not expecting to be able to return home Saturday. Officials said repeatedly they need time to assess the damage — most of which seemed concentrated in Jacksonville Beach —before they can re-open the bridges crossing the Intracoastal Waterway and allow people to return.

Officials expect to have more specific assessments of damage Saturday. Water had breached seawalls along the Northeast Florida coast. Much of St. Augustine appeared under water, while Jacksonville Beach had flooding problems. The Jacksonville Beach Pier was partially destroyed by the storm.

Although Hurricane Matthew has finally passed Jacksonville and rain is beginning to subside, tropical-storm sustained winds and gusts are expected to continue into Saturday morning. The St. Johns River remains swollen from storm surge and flooding could continue to be a problem for days.

It is still not safe to drive in the affected areas.

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