Flagler County made it through the weekend nor’easter with some heavy rains and the expected high waters and some flooding and minor damage to walk-overs and dunes, but no reported flooding into homes or any serious property damage. The forecast for rain had been for 4 to 8 inches. The county got roughly 5.
The Flagler Beach pier is closed pending an inspection–not because it was damaged, but as a routine precaution after a storm that battered its pylons. A coastal flood warning is still in effect in Flagler through 10 p.m. tonight, with “significant” flooding along the coast and the St. Johns River Basin, including Dead Lake and Haw Creek, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
“Starting on Friday, we started to see flooding particularly at high tides,” said Jonathan Lord, Flagler County’s emergency management chief, late this morning. “Friday, Saturday, even Sunday, less so, and we’re expecting to see some minor flooding today because the Intercoastal is still a little backed up, because that weather system is not allowing the water to escape out to the ocean still. So we saw flooding in the typical areas we see along the Intracoastal.”
On Friday, Bob Pickering, Emergency Services’ weather specialist, was reporting multiple wind gusts of over 40 mph in the northernmost part of the county by the coast, and cable lines down in the area of Laramie Drive in palm Coast. But Pickering’s usual stream of storm-damage reports ended up limited to that.
Water flooded over private sea walls and docks along the Intracoastal and soaked yards and roads, but did not make it into homes–at least none that were reported to emergency management. Several areas of Flagler Beach, along Flagler Avenue, South Daytona Avenue and the south part of town–the South 20 to 27th Street area–saw roads covered by several inches of water, making them briefly impassable in some areas.
“On the Atlantic coastal side between the higher tides as well as the waves on top of that, there has been some dune damage,” Lord said, along with some damage to private and public walkovers, as at Varn Park, at Sea Colony and Bay Drive Park. But walkover damage is mostly minor and easily repairable.
“With the elevated sea level that we have inherently these days, when you get something like a nor’easter, you combine that along with what people have historically called king tides–it’s not an official meteorological term–and then add a nor’easter on there where the water can’t leave the Intercoastal through the inlets because of the water backing up from the ocean, unfortunately these flooding events are becoming more and more common for the low lying areas.”
The Intracoastal has only two entry and exit points for miles in the region: Matanzas Inlet to the north, Ponce Inlet to the south. The county’s rainwaters and canals drain into the Intracoastal, adding to the back-up. When a storm like this weekend’s is added to the mix, the normal flow is affected all the way to the canals and creeks.
A single storm may not in itself be seriously damaging, but a succession of storms is slowly leveling the shoreline’s dunes, which the county rebuilt in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Matthew for $25 million, mostly with state money. “It’s obviously concerning that the views are getting chipped away with each successive event,” Lord said.
County Engineer Faith Al-Khatib was surveying the dune system today. With seas rising, Lord expects that what used to be unusual weather events events will be annual, if not bi-annual, events from now on–in addition to the regular hurricane season, which itself doesn’t end until Nov. 30. The weekend storm was not part of that cycle, the nor’easter not being a tropical storm. Nor’easters can happen at any point in the year.
In Palm Coast, it was “nothing unusual for a nor’easter, it was readily handled with the staff on duty,” Palm Coast Fire Chief and Interim Assistant manager Jerry Forte said. With heavy rains, sand pines get weakened roots and fall over, weakened branches break: that happened in places. Public works is out cleaning up in parks today. Over the weekend, Cynthia Schweers, director of community engagement, activated customer service to handle call volume, much of it about downed trees, whether to put garbage out on Friday, and about water levels in streets. “Nobody had intrusion in the house,” Forte said. Some asked whether sand bags would be needed. They would not be. The canals filled up and are still draining. That’s expected to return to normal in the next 24 hours.