ST. MARYS — Much of Camden County was without power Tuesday as the region started what appears to be a long recovery from Hurricane Irma.
Few traffic lights worked in the county Tuesday morning, with officers directing traffic at the Interstate 95 interchanges to help traffic flow smoothly. Surprisingly, the traffic on the roads moved smoothly and carefully through intersections without a police presence where the lights weren’t working.
Lines of vehicles over a block long waited at the lone gas station open at the Exit 3 interchange off I-95 and Georgia 40.
Supermarkets opened throughout the day in Kingsland and St. Marys as power was slowly restored in parts of the county. But it will likely take days to restore power in the hardest-hit areas in downtown St. Marys where dozens of fallen trees blocked streets and power and cable lines lay on the ground and across roads.
Onlookers flocked downtown to assess the damage done to the city’s waterfront, where many boats washed ashore in a tangled mess. The Cumberland Queen, one of the boats used to ferry passengers to Cumberland Island, is one of the vessels at the river bottom.
Many boats anchored offshore during the storm ended up in the marshes, where some sustained significant damage as the smashed against each other.
St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey said city officials are discouraging people from coming downtown unless they live there because of safety concerns.
The city’s water and sewer system held up during the storm, but there were some nervous moments because 57 of the city’s 75 lift stations went down at one point during the storm.
“Our water and sewer is fine,” he said.
Morrissey said he has not been able to get information about the condition of Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Scott Bassett, a spokesman at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, said there were many fallen trees and several small buildings were damaged, but the base fared well, under the circumstances.
All but one of the submarines were at sea, except for one that was in dry dock, where no damage was reported.
Much of base personnel evacuated, but they can’t come back until the evacuation order is lifted and county officials declare the road safe to drive again. Social media has been a great way for base officials to stay in contact with sailors and their families who evacuated, he said.
“Everybody is anxiously waiting to come back,” he said.
Bassett, who stayed on base during the storm, said he hasn’t been home to assess the damage, but a neighbor sent a photo of a tree leaning against his house. He plans to check out the damage once county officials declare the roads safe again, but he has been on base since Saturday.
Nancy Mock, owner of Market on the Square, a gift shop on the St. Marys waterfront, spent the day with family members scrubbing floors with bleach and disinfectant cleaners to wash the muddy water that washed over sandbags and into her building.
Mock said she expects to reopen by the end of the week, assuming power is restored.
The store held a sale advertised on social media to sell all their fudge and much of the ice cream prior to the storm. Local businesses with extra refrigeration space let Mock store the rest of her perishables.
Mock said the big long-term concern is when passenger ferry service is restored to Cumberland Island.
“I’m concerned because September and October are such great months to go to the island,” she said. “We’re going to need local residents even more to support local businesses downtown.”