PALM COAST, Fla. – Flagler County residents were permitted back into their homes on Saturday after Hurricane Matthew passed just off coast, officials said.
Residential re-entry began in stages Saturday after preliminary Hurricane Matthew damage assessments were done, Flagler County officials said.
“We have done assessments and the roads are passable,” said Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t some hazards on some of the roadways, but they are in decent shape. Please remember to use caution and be safe.”
Inoperable stop lights must be treated as four-way stop signs.
Only residents and safety personnel will be allowed on the barrier island and proof of residency will be required.
“We cannot have people going through intersections without checking for traffic coming from the opposite directions,” said Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney.
“As residents return home and they await the restoration of power, we ask that the use of generators be limited to houses that are high and dry,” said Steve Garten, Flagler County Public Safety Emergency Manager. “Powering up a home that has been under water is extremely dangerous. Please don’t do it.”
Flagler County cut off access to the beaches effective immediately on Friday evening which was enforced by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
A portion of A1A washed away south of the Flagler Beach Pier near Topaz, according to Julie Murphy, Flagler County Public Information Officer.
“We don’t want anyone on the beachside who doesn’t need to be there,” Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey said in a news release. “We need to be able to get an assist those people who are in the most need.”
First responders were grounded on Friday morning after officials say the winds have become too strong to safely serve people.
“Sustained winds have reached 45 mph, which means fire rescue and law enforcement officers are unable to respond to calls for service due to unsafe weather conditions,” said Garten. “It is very important that everyone stays indoors from here on out.”
Officials said that crews will assess the storm damage, power outages and road closure, but are asking for residents to stay where they are so first responders can get to those who need services as fast as possible.
On Friday, commissioners expanded a mandatory curfew starting at 7 p.m. for all of Flagler County until further notice.
“We really want everyone to stay inside until we are sure the conditions are safe to go out,” Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey said. “We don’t want residents to put themselves in danger. Please be safe everyone.”
Law enforcement will not stop people from evacuating, but anyone caught loitering could be charged with a misdemeanor.
The ban on alcohol sales in the county has been lifted.
All bridges to the beach closed at midnight Friday. Tolls on the Hammock Dunes Bridge have been suspended.
Officials expanded the issued mandatory evacuation in parts of the county on Thursday morning.
According to the Flagler EOC, the mandatory evacuation of Zones A, B and C began at 6 a.m. Thursday. At 11 a.m Thursday, a mandatory evacuation order was given for Zone F, which is in the western side of Flagler County, including the St. Johns Park area.
Evacuation Zone A includes everything east of the Intracoastal including Marineland, Hammock, Flagler Beach along A1A.
Evacuation Zone B includes the neighborhoods along Colbert Lane to the south, all of the C section and the F section east of Florida Park Drive and the F section east of Palm Harbor Parkway. This zone also includes the area east of Old Kings Road, south of State Road 100 including Bulow and its adjacent neighborhood, Grand Haven and western Flagler Beach.
Zone C includes The Woodlands neighborhood off Old Kings Road.
According to Flagler County Emergency Services' Facebook page, the following shelters will open at 6 a.m. on Thursday:
- Rymfire Elementary School (Special Needs Shelter) 1425 Rymfire Dr, Palm Coast. In Palm Coast, just north of Royal Palms Pkwy.
- Bunnell Elementary School (Pet Friendly), 305 N Palmetto St., Bunnell. In Bunnell, 2 blocks north of SR 100, via Orange Street
“The current storm surge estimates have risen and that will likely cause a greater impact to Flagler County,” said Steve Garten, public safety emergency manager. “We would like residents to head west. Shelter space is intended for those who have no other option so if you have friends and family you can stay with, please make those arrangements.”
Residents will be notified by CodeRED of the evacuation order.
"Flagler County is asking residents to respect the evacuation order, especially on the barrier island," officials said. "Once sustained winds reach 45 mph, the bridges will close and first responders will not be able to respond to the area."