Residents of Daytona Beach Shores are defying public safety officials over whether or not their beachfront condominiums can safely return, blaming overcautious authorities, rather than Tropical Storm Nicole, for being moved from their houses.
Officials say 25 buildings in Daytona Beach Shores have been deemed unsafe due to concerns that Nicole has undermined basic infrastructure, and there are fears that damaged beachside buildings could still collapse.
However, many Castaways Beach Resort residents have stubbornly defied public authorities and law enforcement who continue to pressure residents to leave their homes. Castaways is located at 2043 S. Atlantic Ave.
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They say the storm surge only cracked a protective levee outside the seven-story building, but failed to breach it, leaving the station building unscathed.
“Our building is very tall here, solid as a rock, there is no reason for these people to leave,” said Robert Longmire, resident of the station. “It’s their house, no one has the right to tell them to leave. This building is good. Further, at Wilbur-by-the-Sea, there is a lot of damage, I understand, I am not stupid. But they kicked us out too, for no reason.
Returning to a dangerous building? Don’t expect help from first responders
Daytona Beach Shores Director of Public Safety Michael Fowler responded Saturday afternoon when he spoke outside Castaways Beach Resort about concerns over residents who chose to return to buildings, like the resort, prematurely. that have not been deemed safe by public authorities.
Fowler stressed that public safety officials want residents to return home as soon as possible, but not before the proper process is followed to ensure safety.
He had a strong message to those who return to buildings that have been evacuated and deemed unsafe prematurely, they are on their own.
“This morning we have already started receiving EMS service calls from people in need of medical assistance in structures that had been evacuated,” he said. “We are not going to put the lives of our first responders at risk for people who defy the building chief’s order. We will not go to any of these structures to provide services. If you’ve chosen to come here, when you’re told it’s dangerous, you’re on your own. We cannot help you.
Fowler said the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office sent 100 deputies to the community to go door to door during the storm to conduct emergency evacuations from dangerous structures. The City of Daytona Beach Shores then implemented a formal process to deem structures safe before residents could return.
“We had about 25 buildings deemed unsafe, at imminent risk of structural collapse, by our building manager,” Fowler said. “Almost all of them are high-rise structures, they’re multi-family. They’re condominiums. We have hotels that have been affected. It’s affecting hundreds and hundreds of people.”
“At this point, no structure has been deemed safe,” Fowler said. “Unfortunately what is happening is that people, on their own, have decided to come back and reoccupy these dangerous buildings. They are in danger of collapsing.”
He said residents or management companies who wish to have their buildings deemed safe must submit an independent structural engineering study for review; a process that could take a considerable amount of time, and Fowler said there was no timeline in mind.
“Each of these properties must bring in an independent structural engineer and provide a report on the level of safety of the structure,” Fowler said. “They’ll provide that to our building manager…He can do an assessment based on that report, he can also follow up and come back to the property, and after that a decision will be made as to whether he’s safe to not .”
Fowler said officials wanted to help residents get home quickly, but the danger posed to residents of unsafe buildings outweighed the inconvenience.
“We did everything we could to help these people,” Fowler said. “Volusia County provided them with a safe place to stay, and it was ignored by almost everyone. It was possible to evacuate safely and not need to return to these properties. have done, and have done so in a very short time.
“The problem is all these people… defying the order and then calling us and expecting us to come back,” he said.
Damaged or not? Residents of Castaways Beach Resort question authorities
Longmire, 66, is a North Carolina resident who lived part-time in the resort building during the winters for seven years.
He owns two units at Castaways Beach Resort, one on the third floor and one on the fifth, and felt law enforcement was intimidating residents into leaving their homes.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s very out of place, there are buildings along this beach that have really suffered serious damage, and I can understand those people, but it’s up to us. If we think that our building is safe, it’s our home,” he said. “Nobody has the right to tell us to leave, and that’s what they did.
“We lost power during Ian, we didn’t evacuate, but we suffered no damage,” Longmire said. “This hurricane comes in and puts a little shatter in our seawall, and the next day we have 100, and I’m not exaggerating, 100 cops blocking the building, blocking the hallways. They went door to door… in their swat outfits, scaring people in broad daylight.
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Longmire said the resort building survived Tropical Storms Ian and Nicole largely unscathed, and believes it’s a reluctance to render any services to the building that puts residents at risk. He criticized the decision to deny emergency services to residents who live in the building.
“We all came back the next day, our electricity never went out, our water was on, they won’t turn our elevators back on,” Longmire said. “We have elderly people there at the moment. If the building caught fire, there would be no way for them to get down.
Longmire then pointed to two motorized scooters for the elderly that had been left abandoned in the lobby and recalled carrying some of his elderly neighbors up the stairs himself because the elevator in the building was closed.
“We literally carried these guys up the stairs to the fifth floor, they can’t walk,” Longmire said. “A lot of these people are on fixed incomes, they’ve been landlords here for years. They have nowhere to go, they have no family.
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