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Florida storm travels northward

Nicole eyes East Coast, could bring up to 8 inches of rain by REBECCA BLACKWELL and FREIDA FRISARO The Associated Press | November 12, 2022 at 4:33 a.m.
Homes are damaged and collapsed Friday after the shore on which they stood was swept away following the passage of Hurricane Nicole in Wilbur-By-The-Sea, Fla. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)

WILBUR-BY-THE-SEA, Fla. -- Heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Nicole covered the eastern United States from Georgia to the Canadian border Friday while hundreds of people on a hard-hit stretch of Florida's coast wondered when, or if, they could return to their homes.

As waves washed over pieces of lumber and concrete blocks that once were part of homes at Wilbur-by-the-Sea, workers tried to stabilize remaining sections of land with rocks and dirt. It was too late for some.

Restoring Daytona Beach and surrounding beaches will likely require a major, multimillion-dollar sand renourishment project and improved sea walls to protect property, said Stephen Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.

"It was known worldwide for driving on the beach," said Leatherman. "They don't even have a beach to think about right now."

As Nicole's leftovers pushed northward, forecasters issued multiple tornado warnings in the Carolinas and Virginia, although no touchdowns were reported immediately. In south Georgia, Keith Post tried to clean up the damage at a coastal submarine museum that was submerged by 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 at the Atlantic coast. "From the front of the museum looking across to Florida, you did not see any green. It was all water."

Downgraded to a depression, Nicole could dump as much as 8 inches of rain over the Blue Ridge Mountains, forecasters said, and there was a chance of flash and urban flooding as far north as New England.

Wrecks added to Atlanta's bad traffic as rain from Nicole fell across the metro area during rush hour, and a few school systems in Georgia's mountainous north canceled classes.

The situation was a lot worse in eastern Florida.

One roughly 15-mile long area of the coast was severely eroded, with multiple seawalls destroyed. Much of the destruction was blamed on unrepaired seawalls bashed during Ian, which killed more than 130 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Volusia County officials said it wasn't clear when people might be able to sunbathe next to their cars and pickup trucks on the beaches again.

"Assessments have begun and will be ongoing as we have 47 miles of beach," county spokesman David Hunt said.

Just under 15,000 homes and businesses were without power across Florida by late Friday afternoon, down from a high of more than 330,000. No major distuptions were reported up the Eastern Seaboard, according to a tracking website.

The lifting of a curfew at 7 a.m. Friday and the reopening of bridges leading to the beachfront enabled evacuated residents to return to the area to take stock of their properties, if only from the outside. But safety officials warned people not to approach the wreckage, which could collapse at any time.

"If you go anywhere near the beach, you are putting your life in jeopardy. We are flying double red flags because there are massive amounts of debris in the water and on the beach, 5- to 8-foot breaking waves, and strong rip currents," Tamara Malphurs, deputy chief of the Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, told The Associated Press.

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 battered his yacht against a dock in Cocoa, despite efforts to resuscitate him by paramedics who managed to get on board as the boat broke away from its moorings, police said.

Nicole also caused flooding well inland, as parts of the St. Johns River were at or above flood stage. Some rivers in the Tampa Bay area approached flood levels, according to the National Weather Service.

Emergency declarations were approved for all 67 Florida counties and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as the storm moved over the state.

Information for this article was contributed by Curt Anderson, Anthony Izaguirre, Russ Bynum, Jay Reeves and Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Florida storm travels northward

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