Coastal GA residents returning home after Hurricane Matthew

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A number of residents are returning home to coastal Georgia Monday, two days after Hurricane Matthew battered the east coast.

SKYFOX 5 flew over a slow-moving Interstate 75 southbound around 1:30 p.m. Monday. Traffic was crawling near Mount Zion Boulevard as storm evacuees headed back to the coast. 

Conditions have slowly been improving following the devastating storm. Monday morning, there were plenty of signs of recovery in Savannah. Some traffic signals were back online at busy intersections. A growing number of gas stations and grocery stores were reopening and power outages were down to about 85,000 homes and businesses in Chatham County — down from more than 140,000 right after the storm hit.

Roadblocks keeping evacuated residents from returning to Savannah and neighboring Tybee Island had been lifted. Still, local officials were pleading with people to remain patient and remain extra cautious, saying a full recovery was still far away. Fallen trees and downed power lines still blocked many roads, and others remained flooded.

Many intersections still had traffic signals blacked out.

"You may not be able to get to your homes," Lee Smith, county manager for Chatham County, said at a Monday news conference. "There may not be grocery stores open in your area. This is a long process — not days, but weeks or months."

Tybee Island resident Tess Winchester returned to her beachfront home in relief after finding power back on at her home and job. Winchester left her hotel in Savannah around 7 a.m. Monday and cruised through a checkpoint at Highway 80 where law enforcement asked for proof of residency. She works at Benny's Tybee Tavern.

Employees of several surf shops and restaurants on Butler Avenue busily removed plywood from windows and piled sandbags into trucks.

Despite the stress of worrying about the storm' effects on the island and friends who stayed behind, Winchester said she felt blessed.

"I haven't taken a vacation in six years, Winchester said, standing behind the bar juggling calls from suppliers and visits from other returning locals. But it's time to get back to work."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.