By REBECCA BLACKWELL and FREIDA FRISARO (Associated Press)
WILBUR-BY-THE-SEA, Fla. (AP) — Heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Nicole blanketed the eastern United States from Georgia to the Canadian border on Friday, while hundreds of people on a hard-hit part of the Florida coast wondered if their homes can become habitable again.
Parts of otherwise intact buildings hung over sand cliffs created by pounding waves that covered the normally wide beach at Wilbur-by-the-Sea, near where Nicole made landfall. Dozens of hotel and condominium towers as high as 22 stories have been declared uninhabitable in Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach after seawater undermined their foundations.
As the waves crashed over pieces of wood and concrete blocks that once formed part of homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, workers attempted to stabilize the remaining sections of land with rocks and dirt. It was too late for some, however: the facade of a house was sitting on the sand, where it was sheared off from the rest of the structure.
Forecasters issued multiple tornado warnings in the Carolinas, though no touchdowns were reported immediately. In southern Georgia, Keith Post attempted to repair damage to a coastal underwater museum submerged in floodwaters.
“At one point it was up to my knees,” said Post, whose St. Marys Submarine Museum sits on the river that forms the Georgia-Florida line on the Atlantic coast. “From the front of the museum overlooking Florida, you didn’t see any greens. It was all just water.
Downgraded to a depression, what was left of Nicole could dump up to 20 centimeters of rain on the Blue Ridge Mountains, forecasters said, and there was a risk of flash and urban flooding as far north as New England. .
As the storm moved north of Atlanta and maximum sustained winds dropped to 30 mph (45 km/h), forecasters issued a series of tornado warnings in North and South Carolina, although no hits or damage were immediately reported. Much of both states and Virginia were under tornado watch.
The wrecks added to Atlanta’s notoriously bad traffic as Nicole’s rain hit the metro area during rush hour and a few school systems in mountainous North Georgia canceled classes.
The storm claimed at least three lives and swallowed once-wide stretches of sand in the Daytona Beach area, famous for its drivable beaches.
An area about 15 miles (24 kilometers) of the coast was badly eroded, with several levees destroyed, when Hurricane Ian crossed the state from west to east six weeks earlier, killing more than 130 people and destroying thousands of homes.
Volusia County officials said it’s unclear when people will be able to sunbathe next to their cars and vans on beaches again.
“Assessments have begun and will continue as we have 47 miles of beach,” county spokesman David Hunt said.
The season-ending hurricane hit the Bahamas first, the first to do so since Category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated the archipelago in 2019. For storm-weary Floridians, it was the first November hurricane to hit their shores since 1985 and only the third since record-keeping began in 1853.
Even hurricanes and minor storms have become more destructive because seas are rising as the planet’s ice melts due to climate change, increasing coastal flooding, said Princeton University climatologist Michael Oppenheimer. “It’s going to happen all over the world,” he said.
The lifting of the curfew at 7 a.m. on Friday and the reopening of bridges leading to the waterfront allowed evacuated residents to return to the scene to take stock of their belongings, if only from the outside, and begin to determine if they will be able to live there again. But security officials warned people not to approach the wreckage.
“Residents and visitors are asked to stay away from the beach due to debris and damage to homes, apartments, hotels, beach walkways and piers,” The Associated told Press Tamara Malphurs, deputy chief of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.
“If you go near the beach, you put your life in danger. We are flying two red flags because there is massive amounts of debris in the water and on the beach, 5-8 foot breaking waves and strong rip currents,” she said.
Jetties and walkways could also be dangerous, she said: ‘Even at low tide these structures can collapse without warning. Currently, the beach is the most dangerous place in our county. We will work as hard as possible to make it safe and accessible again, but it will take time.
A man and a woman were killed by electrocution when they touched downed power lines in the Orlando area, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said. Another man died as waves pounded his yacht against a dock in Cocoa, despite efforts to revive him by paramedics who managed to board as the boat broke free from its moorings, police said. of Cocoa.
Nicole also caused flooding well inland, as parts of the Saint John River were at or above flood stage. Some rivers in the Tampa Bay area have approached flood stages, according to the National Weather Service. Emergency declarations were approved for all 67 counties in Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as the sprawling storm moved across the state.
Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale. AP writers Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; and Seth Borenstein in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, contributed to this report.
For more AP coverage of our changing climate: https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment