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St. Augustine floods becoming more frequent, hurting businesses

“Every high tide now is getting worse and worse,” said Juan Solano, owner of the Old City Inn and Restaurant.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Many St. Augustine business owners say the infrastructure and charm of the city are at risk as flooding becomes more often downtown.

“Every high tide now is getting worse and worse,” said Juan Solano, owner of the Old City Inn and Restaurant.

Solano has owned the 150-year-old building for a decade, and he said it did not flood nearly as often then as it does now.

“It’s scary, but there is nothing we can do,” Solano said.

Solano said it used to be hurricanes that would fill the streets with water. Now, a heavy rainstorm is enough to send water into businesses.

“The small businesses like myself, the mom-and-pop shops, we can’t endure this,” said Karla Wagner, owner of Corazon Cinema and Café, just one street over from Solano. “Every time you turn around we have a flood.”

Cars that attempt to drive through flushes water through Wagner’s door.

Between fighting the pandemic and flooding, these local businesses are hanging by a string.

Wagner said she’s seen the ongoing flooding ruin cars, infrastructure and landscaping frequently. She often sees police directing traffic away from the flooded streets.

“That’s all costly things that are being more on a reactive basis than a proactive basis,” Wagner said.

Wagner says she is one of many begging the city to do something before the damage from storms makes business dry up.

“The city has a responsibility to take care of the infrastructure and take care of the flooding concerns on a more immediate basis,” Wagner said.

First Coast News asked the city what is being done to fix this problem and preserve businesses, homes and the historical character of these neighborhoods.

No one would give a direct quote, but said it is working on a plan to fight the floods, whether it be by rain or tide. The city did not give a timeline of when this could be done.

Wagner says steps should have been taken long ago.

“With the climate changing and everyone knowing about this, we need to escalate this,” Wagner said.

The city said if you live in the area, keep debris like leaves and branches away from storm drains. If you’re a driver in the area, avoid the water to keep wakes from hitting buildings. If you have to drive through, go very slowly to prevent those wakes from running up to businesses and homes.