A local politician once infamously said the story of Jacksonville is really a tale of two cities. On Tuesday — one day after Hurricane Irma pushed water into places it hadn’t been in at least 150 years, destroying homes with flood waters and debris — that was true.
Five Points in Riverside looked Tuesday like the burgeoning restaurant-and-bar district it’s been known as for years — customers likely had to wait for seats.
Just a few blocks away, water-logged streets remained evidence that something had gone terribly wrong in the city.
“This storm has conquered me,” one resident said, reflecting on the damage flood waters brought to his home on the corner of Copeland Street and River Boulevard.
Recovery from Hurricane Irma will mean different things to different people in Jacksonville, and in the region around it.
Flooding caused such catastrophic damage in the North and South Prongs of Black Creek — rural communities in Clay County — it stunned longtime residents and left county officials still unable to provide an assessment of how extensive the wreckage is.
Some homes that didn’t flood were wrecked by fallen trees.
SLIDESHOWS: IRMA'S AFTERMATH
The storm knocked out power to more than a quarter million JEA customers, and the utility’s efforts to restore it will be closely watched and scrutinized in the coming days — particularly by residents whose homes lack power despite sustaining little or no damage.
Jacksonville caught the east side of Hurricane Irma as it slogged up the Florida peninsula.
Although the storm was transitioning from a weak Category 2 into a tropical storm as its outer bands moved through Northeast Florida, a confluence of other weather patterns — including a weekend nor’easter that pushed water into the St. Johns River and dumped rain on the area — caused a Category 3-level storm surge.
“We were shocked yesterday when the flooding started here,” Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday in Jacksonville, after taking an aerial tour of the city.
Although the worst storm conditions started to abate by mid-morning Monday, flood waters began rapidly rising when the tide rose. That prompted city officials to plead with residents in vulnerable neighborhoods to leave.
Mayor Lenny Curry said 365 people were rescued.
By Tuesday, flood waters appeared to have receded in all but the hardest-hit parts of Jacksonville, which by and large were neighborhoods along the St. Johns River and the waterways that feed it. That signaled the beginning of a long cleanup.
“Yesterday we had to act so fast … to save lives, and now we just begin the rebuilding process,” Curry said. “And we’ll get it done.”
The precise scale of damage was still hard to pin down Tuesday. More than 125,000 JEA customers were still in the dark. Four city shelters remained open.
Winds and rain damaged plenty of public infrastructure, including the riverwalks on the Northbank and Southbank. The Florida Department of Transportation is making emergency repairs to the Heckscher Drive Bridge at Browns Creek, which are estimated to last a week. Irma again battered the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier for the second year in a row. Beach dunes will have to be restored.
Still, residents were ready to get the hunker-down days of Irma behind them.
The sun-soaked skies lured beach goers. Experienced surfers rode a sizable swell. People wanted to eat, and to fish.
And watch football. Curry and Jaguars president Mark Lamping said Tuesday the team still plans to play its Sunday game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field.
City offices will re-open Wednesday. Duval County Public schools will remain closed. Some schools remained without power Tuesday, and it was unclear whether officials will re-open them Thursday.
Times-Union reporters Charlie Patton, Andrew Pantazi, Ben Conarck, Teresa Stepzinski and Tessa Duvall contributed to this report.