Tropical Storm Nicole drenches Georgia and the Carolinas

The storm has slowed after pummelling Florida’s Atlantic coast on Thursday, but officials urge caution.

Tropical Storm Nicole
A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Nicole on Tuesday before it brought fierce wind and rain to Florida's Atlantic coast [NOAA via AP Photo]

Tropical Storm Nicole crawled north on Friday, soaking parts of Georgia and the Carolinas with heavy rains and leaving in its wake four dead and a path of destroyed and teetering beachside homes and damaged hotels and condos along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

In Volusia County, local officials evacuated 24 beachside hotels and condos after the structures were deemed unsafe late Thursday, hours after the storm slammed ashore along Florida’s Atlantic coast as a Category 1 hurricane.

In Wilbur-By-The-Sea, an upscale beachfront community just south of Daytona Beach, about a half-dozen homes crumbled into the sea while another 25 single-family homes were declared structurally unsafe and evacuated, officials said online.

“The structural damage along our coastline is unprecedented,” Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald said in a statement.

“We have never experienced anything like this before,” he said. “This is going to be a long road to recovery.”

The beaches in the community of about 30,000 people were littered with piles of concrete, wood and rebar, where large homes with picturesque views of the ocean once stood. Residents surveyed the ruins in disbelief.

In addition to two people who were electrocuted in the storm’s aftermath in Orange County – home to the city of Orlando and Disney World – two other people died in a car crash on the Florida turnpike during the storm, the Orlando Sentinel reported, citing the state highway patrol.

The storm, packing sustained winds of 120km/h (75mph), pulled down power lines on Thursday, knocking out service to more than 300,000 homes and businesses. Some 44,500 homes and businesses remained without power on Friday morning, reported.

houses destroyed by hurricane
Parts of homes are seen collapsing on the beach due to the storm surge by Hurricane Nicole in Wilbur-By-The-Sea, on Florida’s mid-Atlantic coast. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Nicole’s storm surge also caused the collapse of parts of the scenic Florida A1A highway, which runs along the Atlantic coast in Volusia County, sheriff’s officials said.

As clean-up efforts got under way in Florida, Nicole moved north across central and northern Georgia on Friday after being downgraded to a tropical depression. It was still producing heavy rains and wind gusts of more than 56km/h (35mph). It is expected to weaken into a post-tropical cyclone as it arrives in the western Carolinas later in the day.

The storm will further dissipate on Saturday as it dumps rain on the Mid-Atlantic states and New England, the National Hurricane Center said.

Portions of the southeast, the Appalachians, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio may get as much as 20cm (8 inches) of rain that could cause isolated flooding. The northern Mid-Atlantic up into New England may get 8cm (3 inches) of rain, forecasters said.

Volusia County was among several east coast areas hard hit six weeks ago by Hurricane Ian, a catastrophic Category 4 storm that initially struck Florida’s Gulf Coast, then swept across the state to the Atlantic, causing some $60bn in damages and killing more than 100 people.

Nicole was only the second hurricane on record to make landfall in the continental United States after November 4. Hurricane Kate came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida, on November 21, 1985, said Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University, on Twitter.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June to November.

collapsed pier and lifeguard tower in Florida
A public facility and life guard tower are seen partially collapsed near the Pirates Cove condominium due to an Atlantic Ocean storm surge by Hurricane Nicole Thursday, in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Source: Reuters