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Nicole destroys beachside homes, floods streets as it lashes Florida


Nicole destroys beachside homes, floods streets as it lashes Florida



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Tropical Storm Nicole pounded Florida’s eastern beaches Thursday, tumbling several seaside homes into the ocean as the sprawling storm saturated parts of the state still recovering from Cateogry-4 Ian a month ago.

Further inland, a man and a woman were electrocuted after stepping out of a car and coming into contact with a live downed wire south of Orlando, the first deaths attributed to the storm, according the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Two more people died after a “crash-related incident” that could be linked to the storm, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings told reporters.

The cyclone made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Vero Beach, clobbering the state’s central Atlantic coast with 75 mph winds overnight and dropping upward of a half foot of rain over inland areas that experienced devastating floods a month ago.

Hurricane Nicole made landfall on Florida’s east coast on Nov. 10, causing erosion to some beachfront communities. (Video: Jackson Barton, Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared all of the Sunshine State under a state of emergency in what he called “an abundance of caution” as officials assess the impacts.

Dozens of buildings along Daytona Beach were evacuated as strong waves hit the shore, eroding beaches from Jupiter to Jacksonville — and causing at least a few to collapse. Water from the St. Johns River gushed into the streets of Jacksonville, while wind gusts forced the temporary closure of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the Tampa Bay area. And NASA teams were on standby to assess the 322-foot-tall Space Launch System rocket that weathered the storm from its launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center and is expected to takeoff next week.

“This is obviously not as significant a storm as Hurricane Ian was, but coming on the heels of that, you’re seeing communities, particularly in the Volusia County area, where you had a lot of that erosion on the coastline,” DeSantis said. “This has put some of those structures in jeopardy, and they’ve been working very hard to make sure everybody is safe.”

The hurricane dropped several inches of rain as it crossed the state, brushing the west coast north of Tampa and curling back east over the Big Bend region, knocking down power lines and flooding low-lying areas. As of Thursday evening, about 145,000 homes remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages across the country.

Evacuation orders were issued ahead of the storm in several counties, and local officials warned storm surge and beach erosion should not be taken lightly.

Volusia County spokesman Kevin Captain said that 19 hotels and condos were damaged by the storm, along with an estimated 40 single family homes. A curfew remained in place on Daytona Beach and surrounding beaches through Friday morning. The beaches were littered with debris, and a riptide and high waves made the water hazardous.

“At this time, the beach is the most dangerous place in the county,” said Tammy Malphurs, deputy chief of beach safety for Volusia County.

Some of the erosion damage was already visible early Thursday: several homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea and Daytona Beach Shores collapsed, and others were left standing precariously along a cliff. Staircases leading to the coast from condo buildings were swept into the sea. A public safety building with restrooms partly fell into the tide. Next to the fallen building, a sea wall, a section of asphalt road and a parking area were steadily crumbling as ocean waves hit the shore.

At Cape Canaveral, NASA officials were assessing how soon workers can check in on the rocket expected to launch next Wednesday, a spokesman said. The rocket’s inaugural takeoff is slated to send the Orion spacecraft to orbit the moon. Teams will need to inspect the rocket for damage before it can proceed. It is designed to withstand gusts of up to 85 mph, but meteorologists recorded wind speeds in the area that exceeded that threshold.

Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said peak gusts at the pad hit 82 mph. Camera inspections of the rocket “show very minor damage such as loose caulk and tears in weather coverings. The team will conduct additional on-site walk down inspections of the vehicle soon,” he said in a statement.

As the storm moved inland, concern shifted to central Florida communities where the ground is still saturated from Hurricane Ian’s massive downpours. Rivers and lakes were swollen from the catastrophic storm that hit in late September.

Another powerful storm could soon test Florida, still recovering from Ian

Alan Harris, emergency manager of Seminole County, said neighborhoods still drying out from Ian were likely to be flooded again. After Ian, about 100 homes were unreachable except by boat. The water has been slowly receding, and the county expected that by this weekend, the last 40 homeowners would be able to walk down the street and into their homes without waders, “so we could go back to normalcy such as garbage collection.”

“Now, it’s back to parking at the end of the roadway and canoeing in,” Harris said. “So basically it puts us back where we were.”

Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.

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