As Nicole threatened the Carolinas and Virginia with tornadoes and flooding on Friday, Floridians — many still recovering from Hurricane Ian — were killed this week by the storm, which has killed at least five and is known for its dangerous storm surge. And are cleaning up after strong winds tore down buildings.
In Volusia County, Florida, at least 49 beachfront properties, including hotels and condominiums, were deemed “unsafe” after Nicole, which hit Vero Beach, Florida’s East Coast, as a Category 1 hurricane early Thursday to the south, then weakened into a tropical storm and eventually became a post-tropical cyclone by Friday afternoon.
“The structural damage to our coastline is unprecedented,” Volusia County Manager George Rechtenwald said at a news conference, adding that more buildings may be identified as damaged.
Parts of northeastern North Carolina, central, eastern and southeastern Virginia are under a tornado watch until 6 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service, as Nicole turns northeast.
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As the storm — the first hurricane to hit the U.S. in November in nearly 40 years — battered Florida, Ian’s battered coastal buildings took even more damage from coastal erosion. On Wednesday, deputies went door-to-door to evacuate residents of structurally unsound buildings in Volusia County before Nicole arrived.
In Wilbur-By-The-Sea, a barrier island community near Daytona Beach, 22 homes were evacuated early after officials deemed them unsafe.
Then in the middle of Nicole, some beach houses collapse into the sea.
Trip Valigorsky opened the front door of his home to see a large hole leading into the waves where his living room was. Pointing to where the TV and sofa used to be, he told CNN affiliate WKMG he was appalled.
“I was here Tuesday night and I kind of watched the wall deteriorate, and then I woke up Wednesday morning and the wall was completely gone, so I started evacuating,” Valigorsky said. “Now we’re here.”
Nicole also pushed massive amounts of water ashore, tearing apart Ian’s already strained infrastructure.
The storm surge peaked at around 6 feet Thursday morning, sending rising water onto the streets. On top of the unusually high tides associated with this week’s full moon, lower tides are also being pushed ashore, keeping water levels higher for longer.
Drone video showed homes nearly hanging off cliffs and a hotel in Daytona Beach collapsing into the sea after the storm.
“The devastation is almost incomprehensible. Imagine watching your home collapse into the ocean,” said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood tweet.
Nicole is weakening as it passes through Georgia and enters the Carolinas, but it still poses a hazard, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
A tornado watch in effect Friday covers about 4.2 million people, including areas south of Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C.
Isolated damaging gusts of up to 70 mph were also possible, with more than 12 million people under gale warnings from Georgia to the Carolinas.
The system is expected to add 1 to 3 inches of rain over the central Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and New England through Saturday morning before moving away from the U.S. East Coast, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.
As the remnants of Nicole move northward Friday through Saturday, its tropical moisture will be absorbed by a separate cold front, bringing blizzard conditions to the northern Plains, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Damme said. .
Heavy rain and wind gusts in excess of 30 mph will make driving along the Interstate 95 corridor tricky. Meanwhile, air travel could be disrupted at many East Coast airports as the storm moves on.
Schools and universities were closed, hundreds of flights were canceled, airports ceased operations and some coastal residents were evacuated as the massive storm approached Florida.
After Nicole passed, streets were flooded, roads and homes were damaged, and thousands were without power. Earlier, more than 300,000 customers in Florida were affected by the outage; that number had dropped to about 14,000 as of late Friday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
Two people died in Orange County after being “electrocuted by a downed power line,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. According to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, two other deaths are being investigated as possible storm-related causes after a fatal crash.
A 68-year-old Port Canaveral man who was on a yacht was also killed early Thursday morning when it was “slapped by waves and the pier,” the Cocoa Police Department said. Rescuers rushed the couple to the hospital after his wife called 911 to report her husband was in distress. He was later pronounced dead, police said, adding that a cause of death had not yet been determined.
Downed power lines on flooded streets were one of the many dangers residents had to contend with as they returned home after the storm, as crews worked to remove debris from roads and make emergency repairs to washed-out roads.