Tropical Storm Nicole collapsed several homes into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday and threatened a row of high-rise condominiums in places where Hurricane Ian it swept across the beach and destroyed seawalls in just a few weeks. behind.
"Multiple coastal homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea have collapsed and several other properties are at imminent risk," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a social media message. He said most bridges to beachside properties had been closed to all but essential personnel, and a curfew was in effect.
Wilbur-by-the-Sea is an unincorporated barrier island community with only waterfront homes. Next door in Daytona Beach Shores, a swath of high-rise condominiums was evacuated before Nicole made landfall, and though they remained standing after the storm, their future depends on safety checks.
The Marbella condominium association had just spent $240,000 to temporarily rebuild the boardwalk that Ian destroyed in September, said Connie Hale Gellner, whose family owns a unit there. Live video from the building's cameras showed Nicole's storm surge taking everything.
"We knew it wasn't meant to stop a hurricane, it was just meant to stop erosion," Gellner said. But after Nicole, the building's pool deck "is basically on the ocean," Gellner said. “The problem is that we no longer have a beach. So even if we wanted to rebuild, they would probably condemn the building because the water is just splashing against the building."
Nicole was expanding, covering nearly all of the weather-weary state of Florida, and reaching Georgia and the Carolinas before dawn Thursday as well. Tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 450 miles (720 kilometers) from the center in some directions as Nicole turned north over central Florida.
Nicole's winds caused minimal damage, but its storm surge was more destructive than it might have been in the past because seas are rising as the planet's ice melts due to climate change said Michael Oppenheimer, a climatologist at Princeton University. Add to that higher coastal flooding, which flows further inland, and what used to be once-in-a-century events will happen almost every year in some places, he said.
Bad weather in Florida as Nicole approaches
Residents in several Florida counties were ordered to evacuate barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes as Tropical Storm Nicole moved toward the state. (November 9)
"It's definitely part of a picture that's happening," Oppenheimer said. “It's going to happen somewhere else. It's going to happen all over the world."
A man and a woman died of electrocution when they touched downed power lines in the Orlando area, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. Nicole also caused inland flooding, as parts of the St. Johns River were at or above flood stage and some rivers in the Tampa Bay area were also approaching flood stages, according to the National Weather Service.
The worst damage appeared to be along the coast in Volusia County. Krista Dowling Goodrich, who manages 130 rental homes in Wilbur-By-The-Sea and Daytona Beach Shores as director of sales and marketing for Salty Dog Vacations, had witnessed backyards collapsing into the ocean just before the storm.
As a consequence, the backs of about seven colorful houses along the A1A highway disappeared. One modern house was missing two bedrooms and much of its living room because water lapped under its foundation. On a partially collapsed wall, decorations read "Blessed" and "Grateful." Goodrich burst into tears when he saw it.
"Half the house is gone, but we managed to get family photos yesterday," Goodrich said. “It's overwhelming when you see this. These are hardworking people who got to this point in their lives and now they lose everything.”
In Daytona Beach Shores where the waterfront restrooms attached to the city's Beach Safety Ocean Rescue building collapsed, officials deemed several multi-story buildings unsafe and went door to door telling people to grab their belongings and leave.
“These were the tall skyscrapers. So the people who didn't leave, they physically forced them to leave because it's not safe," Goodrich said. "I'm worried about the infrastructure in the area right now because once the boardwalks are removed, they're not going to let people back in... There's going to be a lot of displaced people for a while."
Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane around 3 a.m. Thursday near Vero Beach but did not cause significant damage there, officials said. Part of a fishing pier washed away in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, but the brunt of the storm hit north of its center. At 1 pm, Nicole's maximum sustained winds reduced to 45 mph (70 kph) as it moved toward Tallahassee.
The rare november hurricane It left southern Florida sunny and calm as it moved up the peninsula but could dump up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain over the Blue Ridge Mountains by Friday, the hurricane center said. Flash and urban flooding will be possible as rain spreads into the eastern Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and New England through Saturday.
Nicole was the first hurricane to hit the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm that devastated the archipelago in 2019. For storm-weary Floridians it's only the third November hurricane to hit its shores since records began in 1853.
All 67 Florida counties were in a state of emergency. President Joe Biden also approved an emergency declaration for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, ordering federal aid for the tribal nation. Many Seminoles live on six reservations throughout the state. The tribe also owns the Hard Rock Cafe franchise, with several of its hotels and casinos in Nicole's way.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday in Tallahassee that some 333,000 customers were without power as of mid-morning, about 2.9% of the state's total. He said there were 17,000 power linemen ready to start restoring power and many other assets, including rescue boats and vehicles, would be deployed as needed.
“We are ready and have the resources to respond to any post-storm needs that may arise,” the governor said.
Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort announced they likely would not open as scheduled Thursday. Nearly two dozen school districts were closing schools and 15 shelters had opened along Florida's east coast, the governor said.
Parts of Florida were devastated by hurricane Ian which hit like a Category 4 storm. Ian destroyed houses and damaged crops including orange groves, across the state, damage many still face, and sent a storm surge of up to 4 meters (13 feet) toward the coast, causing widespread destruction.