Florida's East Coast Cleans Up After Hurricane Matthew

Cleanup began up and down Florida's East Coast Friday after Hurricane Matthew narrowly avoided making landfall but brought heavy wind and rain to the Sunshine State.

The wind was still howling Friday afternoon in Brevard County, where the worst of Matthew tore up roofs and brought down old trees. Those who evacuated were coming home to assess the damage and admitted they thought it would be worse.

"That's the roof we lost and it wound up across the street over here, right in front of this guy's truck," Rockledge resident John Isenhart said. "For the most part, thank God, we weren't there, I was more worried about the tree falling over and smashing it."

Many weren't there to witness the damage. They fled to places like Orlando, fearing the storm would make landfall. The Category 3 storm never made it to shore, but there's no question it left a mark.

"It tore up pretty bad and I feel these people were fortunate they were gone and not here cause they might have been cut or something by glass or something," Rockledge resident Lorenzo Bronson said.

For others, frustration began to set in as those who evacuated tried to get home. Local officials weren't quite ready to let them in Friday as Brevard County Sheriff's deputies had a road block preventing people from heading east over the bridge to Cocoa Beach.

"We waited at the first bridge, they opened it at 3 p.m., and then they stopped us here," Jeff Johnson said.

Only emergency officials and utility crews were being let over the bridge. It was unclear if the bridge was closed for inspection or if emergency personnel wanted to wait until areas like Satellite Beach, Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral were deemed safe.

"Just the leadership that's not letting us in is frustrating. And we heard power lines are down but not all of Cocoa Beach, it's just communication, what's going on," Bill Atkinson said.

There were reports of downed power lines blocking roadways, destroyed roofs, fallen trees and a few house fires.

Further south, in Stuart in Martin County, residents said they felt only mild effects from Matthew. The town was up and running again Friday and people were definitely in store for some cleanup over the weekend.

"Could've been a serious hurricane and the house was secured, dogs were all secured," Stuart resident William Ryan Heart said. "The good Lord pushed it away from us so we were lucky."

Some areas, however, did sustain a bit of damage. At one home a large tree in the backyard was uprooted and knocked down a power line, sparking a fire.

"I saw the explosion and the spark and flames from the back of the house and I came out," neighbor Floyd Kirkland said.

Kirkland said he ran across the street and knocked on his neighbor's door to alert the family. Two adults and three children were inside the home sleeping.

"He saved our lives, I mean he saved my kids, he saved all of us," homeowner Michelle Rogen said. "I'm very grateful."

Most locals have taken down a few shutters or pieces of plywood, but don't plan on removing them all. Matthew's future path and the rest of hurricane season concerns them.

More than 40,000 homes and businesses lost power in Martin County. Florida Power and Light was working to restore power in the area.

In Melbourne, locals were thrilled the city came out almost unscathed.

"I think our government did a good job of telling us what to prepare for and what could've been and I think we're lucky it didn't happen that way," resident David Boles said.

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