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Florida Cleanup Underway After Hurricane Causes Flooding


Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina today just north of Charleston. The storm caused widespread flooding and power outages across the southeast and deaths in three states, but the country was spared the huge damage scene in Haiti. We're going to talk about the response in Haiti in just a few minutes, but we're going to start with NPR's Debbie Elliott, who reports that in Florida the cleanup is just getting started.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: As the sun came out in historic downtown St. Augustine so did the cleaning supplies.

JANETTE HILL: It's going to be busy for a while.

ELLIOTT: Janette Hill is hosing down bar mats with bleach at a corner tavern.

HILL: Tradewinds Tropical Lounge, and we're the oldest saloon in the oldest city.

ELLIOTT: St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish 451 years ago, and most of the old settlement buildings near the waterfront here flooded in the storm. The bar got two feet.

HILL: Everybody got water downtown. Nobody was safe.

ELLIOTT: Inside, a gray, slimy muck covers the floor.

HILL: Pretty thick. It's not too bad. It could have been worse. We sandbagged and put plastic in every crack and hole, but it's going to come in as bad as the wind was, you know.

ELLIOTT: Elsewhere, shopkeepers are removing hurricane shutters and picking up debris that washed ashore as crews work to repair downed power lines. On a residential street littered with tree limbs, Daniel Smith is clearing out the storm drains in the driveway of his 100-year-old brick house.

DANIEL SMITH: They designed for this, so there's drains built right in. Pulling some leaves out, raking up, pulling some limbs out.

ELLIOTT: He stayed during the hurricane and watched from his front porch as the storm surge pushed water down his street.

SMITH: Oh, it was completely under water. I was here, yeah. So yeah, it was just running down like a river down through here. And then it turned - you know, I guess it went straight, too - but it turned and went down that street down there, so it was kind of amazing - saw a couple kayaks going by.

ELLIOTT: Smith considers himself fortunate. His only damage is a downed olive tree and a foot of water in his basement. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, St. Augustine, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.