Tripp Walikorski’s beachfront home in a tight-knit community in Volusia County, Florida, which has been in his family for nearly 15 years, was swept away this week by dangerous storm surge and powerful winds as Hurricane Nicole swept across Florida.
“This house was my grandmother’s favorite place,” Waligorski told CNN. “Had some great memories here with her.”
Valigorksy is one of the many residents of Wilbur-by-the-Sea’s coastal neighborhood. whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.
In Volusia County, at least 49 beachfront properties, including hotels and condos, were deemed “unsafe” after Nicole hit Florida’s east coast south of Vero Beach. As a Category 1 hurricane early Thursday Weakened to a tropical storm and eventually a post-tropical cyclone Friday afternoon.
Local video shows homes collapsing and crumbling as Nicole’s waves erode the shoreline. A separate video shows the district’s Coast Guard office collapsing in the 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 that rise has occurred in the last three decades.
Scientists and researchers have long warned that sea-level rise could lead to more erosion and high-tide flooding — especially during intense coastal storms.
That has put even more pressure on seawalls that protect coastal communities from high waves and high water levels, many of which were destroyed by storm surges this week. A seawall put up Tuesday, which Waligorski and his neighbors hoped would protect their property from damage, had crumbled into the sea by Wednesday, he said.
“It was stressful wondering if it would fall, and here we are,” Waligorski said.
On Wednesday morning, Waligorski grabbed his essentials and dog and decided to evacuate the area as the storm grew more severe. By the time he returned, all that remained of his home was the garage and front porch.
As her community begins to rebuild their neighborhood after Nicole, Waligorski said she plans to rebuild her home alongside her neighbors who lost theirs.
Another resident, Bill Martin, lost his entire home during the tornado this week.
“It’s a very devastating thing to watch,” Martin said. “We didn’t think it would be this bad.”
Martin said he has lived in the area for two years and that the house is his permanent residence, where he spends time with his children and grandchildren, playing soccer in the backyard or walking to the beach.
“There’s no politics at the beach, everyone just gets along,” said Martin, adding that his community and the people around Wilbur-by-the-Sea keep his spirits high.
“It all happened so fast,” he said. “But we’re going to rebuild, and this is what we have.”
Just six weeks ago, Hurricane Ian storm surge It eroded parts of Florida’s east coast, hitting an area where a sea wall had been built behind Martin’s home and his neighbors. Now that sea wall is gone, he said.
The back-to-back nature of the storms makes sea walls — which are already aging — more vulnerable, Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at Miami’s School of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, previously told CNN.
“It doesn’t really take a strong storm — you need high tides or storm-waves to wash away or put extra pressure on the walls,” he said. “Since these two storms are six weeks apart, if you don’t give yourself time to repair or fill in the gaps, each storm will definitely leave its mark.”
Arlisa Payne, a lifelong resident of the beach community, told the CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 After assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Nicole, she said she had “never seen anything like it.”
Although his home survived the storm, Payne expressed concern that the seawall in front of his home is in danger of collapsing.
The mother of four said many of her neighbors’ homes were not damaged by Hurricane Ian, but they were hit hard by Nicole, making it difficult for the community to prepare for such storms.
“I think it caught a lot of people,” he said. “How do you prepare for it? People can’t prepare for it.
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