Hurricane Matthew: One Year Later — Lessons Learned in Virginia Beach

NOTE: This is part four of a series looking back on Hurricane Matthew’s impact on the region. Read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — We continue our week-long series taking a look at the impact from Hurricane Matthew by focusing on Virginia Beach.

Matthew dumped water on areas already saturated from two previous storms — Hurricane Hermine and Tropical Storm Julia.

RELATED: Va. Beach receives $4.6M in Hurricane Matthew relief

It could take at least another year for communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew to fully recover.

The storm began its destructive path in late September 2016. Matthew is responsible for killing nearly 600, making it the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since 2005.

Photos: Hermine makes landfall | Damage from Matthew

A look inside a house in the Windsor Woods neighborhood one year after Hurricane Matthew reveals a sad reality.

10 On Your Side spoke to Ron Huff as he was working on repairs.

“There’s no salvaging it, the rugs were wet, you can see the mold, the cabinets were soaked with water, the doors, they all rotted out at the bottom. It was devastating,” Huff said.

Huff is working to fix his mother’s home of 50 years after flood waters destroyed much of what was inside. Roberta Huff saw what she owned outside for the first time during our interview.

“Oh my God there’s our hot tub,” she said. “That’s all the carpeting.

Roberta told 10 On Your Side that rain water had reached the porch before but never made it inside.

“So this was something very, very unusual,” she said.

More than 10 miles away unusually high water also flooded properties in the Ashville Park neighborhood. Cell phone video shows the view outside Charles Young’s home.

“It kept rising and rising. Then it got to about 11 inches about 3 hours into the storm,” he said.

His garage was flooded but he considers himself lucky because no water made it inside.

“When it started flooding it was very nerve-wracking,” Young said.

Houses and apartments like the ones at Waypoint were destroyed after the storm. According to City of Virginia Beach estimates 2,200 homes were damaged, 1,500 of those by flooding.

“Matthew was a bad storm,” Virginia Beach Emergency Management Director Erin Sutton said. “The tropical storm that turns into the nor‘ester tends to be a much worse storm for us.”

Based on a breakdown by city from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia Beach was awarded more than $8.5 million in grant money after Matthew.

More than $55 million in award money was dedicated to help citizens recover. The extensive flooding revealed another reality.

“At the end of the day it’s all drainage and that’s the biggest challenge in our city,” Sutton said.

Because of Matthew’s impact, city council voted to dedicate $316 million to focus on projects in areas that flooded most. Work will span up to 15 years in places across the city including Windsor Woods where the Huffs are trying to rebuild.

“I wouldn’t like anyone else to experience that,” Roberta Huff said.

Sutton said that for the first time during Hurricane Matthew the city used a new damage assessment program. It’s based on mobile technology that allowed them to report damage to the state faster.

“That’s a huge improvement for us,” she said.

Sutton explained there were many lessons learned through Matthew. Her office identified protocols and procedures that needed revising. This city has now purchased high water vehicles. They also now have agreements in place for volunteer organizations who may want to help in a disaster.

“This was the first time that we had volunteer groups come in and say we’re here to help,” she said.

Virginia Beach is also building plans with the military in case of disaster when service members are deployed.

“So that was a big one for our community something that other communities don’t have to deal with,” Sutton said.

All of the changes are to help the city to be prepared in case we ever see disaster again. If we do, the citizens we spoke say they also have plans.

“If it was going to be a cat one even a weak Cat 2 we were out of here. So we wouldn’t have played that game again. Not here,” Young said.

“I would leave and let nature take its course,” Roberta Huff said.

There is a regional long term recovery group that is still active, working to help citizens recover.