County has double standard on evacuations

Len Cayce


St. Augustine Beach

A letter writer wrote to address the delay in opening St. Johns county bridges only to receive a put-down from The Record opinion editor.

While the put-down may have had some emotional basis, it was essentially irrelevant.

Yes, we are a community and feel for those whose homes were damaged, but we are also individuals.

Since when does the sad tragedy of one person justify the inconvenience, or even violation of the rights (by county officials) of another?

It could be that the letter writer or others who evacuated had damage also and wanted to assess that and begin repairs as soon as possible.

Anyone who has experienced water damage (and I have) knows time is of the essence.

So there is more to it than the point of the editor’s scolding. I was “inconvenienced,” as were many of my neighbors, and it was not just this year.

A check of bridge status online Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. showed that nearly every coastal bridge from Duval up to Chatham County Georgia was open — but all of the St. Johns county bridges were closed.

History often repeats itself.

Last year the bridges to the Jacksonville beaches opened well before the bridges to Anastasia Island, even though those beaches had suffered significant flooding.

County officials often say that “we must make sure the bridges are safe.”

Well, they are safe enough for county vehicles, utility vehicles and even a news crew that broadcast from the island on Sunday night during the mandatory curfew.

On Saturday night as winds increased, a Jacksonville TV station was interviewing St. Augustine residents and reported that many were not going to evacuate.

The reason cited was “the way we were treated last year with Matthew.”

Nearly all of my neighbors who evacuated last year stayed put this year — many with kids.

And now even an 83-year-old widow has vowed that, under similar circumstances, she will stay the next time.

County officials seem desperate to have people evacuate in storm situations, so much so that they have criminalized the act of defying an evacuation order.

The rhetoric and warnings are ominous and foreboding.

Yet there seems to be no sense of urgency when opening up the bridges so that those compliant citizens can get back to their homes.

Calling to get an idea of when bridges will open gets no time frame, no objectives, no commitment — only uncertainty and the repeated “bridges are closed indefinitely” or “we are trying.”

Having lived far from the coast for the past four decades I have seen this situation unfold countless times in TV interviews after a storm.

“We evacuated and now they will not let us home..

Yes, history repeats itself.

No one seems to learn from it.