'We didn't think it would be this bad': Beachfront homes in small Florida community swept away by Hurricane Nicole |  CNN

‘We didn’t think it would be this bad’: Beachfront homes in small Florida community swept away by Hurricane Nicole | CNN


Trip Valigorsky’s beachfront home in a tight-knit community in Volusia County, Florida, belonged to his family for nearly 15 years before it was swept away this week as dangerous storm surge and powerful winds caused by Hurricane Nicole swept through Florida.

“That house was my grandmother’s favorite place,” Valigorsky told CNN. “Some of the best memories with her were here.”

Valigorksy is just one of many residents of the seaside neighborhood of Wilbur-By-The-Sea whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

In Volusia County, at least 49 beachfront properties, including hotels and condos, have been deemed ‘unsafe’ following Nicole, which hit Florida’s east coast south of Vero Beach in as a Category 1 hurricane early Thursday before weakening to a tropical storm and finally becoming a post-tropical cyclone Friday afternoon.

County video shows crumbling homes reduced to rubble as waves from Nicole erode the shoreline. A separate video shows the county beach safety office collapsing in rising waters.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea levels in this part of Florida have risen more than a foot in the past 100 years, and most of that rise has occurred during of the past three decades.

Scientists and researchers have long warned that rising sea levels lead to more erosion and flooding at high tide, especially during extreme coastal storms.

This has put even more pressure on levees meant to protect coastal communities from high waves and high water levels, many of which were destroyed this week by the storm surge. A seawall that was erected on Tuesday, which Valigorsky and his neighbors hoped would protect their properties from damage, collapsed into the ocean on Wednesday, he said.

Travel Valigorsky's home destroyed after Hurricane Nicole in Wilbur-By-The-Sea, Florida.

“It was stressful wondering if he was going to fall, and here we are,” Valigorsky said.

On Wednesday morning, Valigorsky decided to grab his essentials and his dog to evacuate the area as he watched the storm grow even more severe. By the time he returned, all that was left of his house was the garage and the entry hall.

As his community begins to rebuild its neighborhood in the wake of Nicole, Valigorsky said he plans to rebuild his home alongside his neighbors who also lost theirs.

Another resident, Phil Martin, lost his entire home in the hurricane this week.

“It was the most devastating thing to see,” Martin said. “We didn’t think it would be so bad.”

Martin said he had lived in the area for two years and the house was his permanent home where he spent time with his children and grandchildren, playing football in the garden or walking to the beach.

“There are no politics at the beach, everyone gets along,” Martin said, adding that his community and those around Wilbur-By-The-Sea are keeping spirits up.

“Everything happened really fast with this one,” he said. “But we will rebuild, we have that.”

Phil Martin's home in Wilbur-By-The-Sea after Hurricane Nicole.

Just six weeks ago, storm surge from Hurricane Ian eroded parts of Florida’s east coast, hitting the area where a seawall was built behind Martin’s home as well as those of his neighbors. . Now, he says, that dike is gone.

The back-to-back nature of the storms makes the levees — which are already aging — more vulnerable, Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, previously told CNN.

“It doesn’t really need a strong storm – you just need high tides or storm-tossed tides to wash away or put extra pressure on the walls,” he said. “With these two storms six weeks apart, if you don’t give places time to repair or rebuild, each storm definitely leaves its mark.”

Arlisa Payne, who has resided in the beachfront community for most of her life, told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 that she had ‘never seen anything like it’ after assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Nicole.

Although her house survived the storm, Payne said she feared the seawall in front of her house could collapse.

The mother-of-four said many of her neighbors’ homes were not damaged by Hurricane Ian, but had been hit hard by Nicole, making it difficult for the community to prepare for such storms. storms.

“I think it caught a lot of people off guard,” she said. “How do you prepare for this? People can’t prepare for it.

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