A little more than a month after Tropical Storm Ian battered Volusia County, drowning seawalls, sending homes to the earth, people to shelters and inflicting north of $325 million in property damage, the last thing the area needed was another tropical storm.
But Mother Nature had other plans as Tropical Storm Nicole was inflicted upon the county, offering a rare November storm and the second blow of a one-two punch that, in many cases, was too much for structures and temporary seawalls to fight against.
Rainfall totals are not in for all of the county, it is still early. The National Centers for Environmental Prediction show Tropical Storm Nicole’s preliminary numbers were DeBary, 6.13 inches; DeLand 6.03; Deltona, 5.08; and Port Orange, 4.07 inches. In comparison, the Volusia average was 14.86 inches for Tropical Storm Ian.
If it wasn't the rainfall causing floods, it was the wind paving a path of destruction. Daytona Beach recorded wind gusts up to 84 miles per hour during Tropical Storm Nicole. For Ian, Daytona Beach’s recorded wind gust high was about three-quarters that at 61 miles per hour.
The wind and rain information provides context to the ways in which each storm, so close together, caused damage to the county. Add erosion to the mix as the final punch to already weakened structures and like a boxer with wobbly legs who couldn’t sustain the next punch, those structures fell to their knees.
“Our ocean shoreline along the beach is pretty beat up,” said Mike Disher, interim town manager for Ponce Inlet. “We lost at least another 50 feet of dunes.”
Recognizing they did not suffer damages as badly as others, he did say, “several structures lost their seawalls, and others lost their swimming pools. And low-lying streets along the river were submerged to an extent not seen before. We are beginning our comprehensive damage assessment today (Friday) to determine which structures are safe and unsafe.” When asked which structures lost seawalls, he replied, “Racing’s North Turn Restaurant. The rest are single-family homes.”
Phillip Veski, public information officer for New Smyrna Beach, said Friday morning the town was planning to provide an update as their damage assessments teams “proceed up and down the beach today,” surveying public infrastructure and homes.
“The two major developments yesterday (Nov. 10) were Las Brisas and Sea Coast Gardens II; both buildings deemed unsafe and evacuated with NSBPD assistance,” Mr. Veski said.
Both are condominiums offering vacation units. There is no time frame as to when they will reopen. The town also closed 27th Avenue Beachfront Park “to pedestrians and vehicles due to significant damage sustained to its ramp, stairs, and pavers,” he said.
Volusia County had damage assessment teams surveying today. The county also deployed personnel from the property appraiser’s office. The initial report was $481,256,768 with Daytona Beach Shores bearing the brunt of that damage at about $370 million.
Kevin Captain, Volusia director of community information, said, “What we can tell you right now is that safety is our number one concern, and decisions on beach driving and beach access will be based on safety for our residents and visitors.”
Over the past two days, many buildings in Daytona Beach Shores had to be shuttered. People staying at Pirates Cove, Grand Coquina, St. Kitts, Sunglow Resort, Twin Towers and Marbella had to evacuate due to erosion and other safety issues.
Holiday Inn Express in the Shores also was evacuated. If hotels are closed, where do the vacationers and residents go to get shelter?
According to the Volusia County Citizens Information Center all shelters closed this morning (Nov. 11). There are no major events happening this weekend to crowd hotels, as Biketoberfest did immediately after Tropical Storm Ian.
In a random sample of hotels near Daytona Beach International Airport, people displaced by Tropical Storm Ian were still living in the hotels and there were no vacancies for at least Friday and Saturday while one hotel said there were no vacancies through the weekend.
Steve Juengst, administration manager for the Holly Hill Department of Public Works, checked in with some good news.
“The City of Holly Hill fared surprisingly well during Hurricane Nicole. There are only modest damages that have been recorded to city properties, mostly along Riverside Drive,” Mr. Juengst said.
About seawalls, he noted, “there are some significant wash outs on the land side of city seawalls due to the river cresting, but no storm related structural damage to the seawalls has been seen.”