Tropical Storm Nicole weakens into depression

Tropical Storm Nicole weakened into a depression and was headed out of Florida late Thursday, but the former Category 1 storm’s ramifications were still being revealed — evacuations ordered, human remains uncovered, collapsed homes, roads and piers and four-storm related deaths.

Hurricane Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds at 3 a.m. Thursday on North Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach. And Nicole’s arrival just six weeks after Hurricane Ian traversed Florida proved to be damning for coastal communities already scathed by the Category 4 storm.

Even after Nicole moved to the west coast, residents of a Daytona Beach Shores condominium in Volusia County were ordered to evacuate because a sea wall collapsed. Still other buildings are at risk, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The storm eroded beaches so severely that homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea toppled into the Atlantic or remained barely standing.

“This is obviously not as significant a storm as Hurricane Ian,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said, referring to the devastating storm that hit Florida in September, at a news conference Thursday morning in Tallahassee. “But coming on the heels of that, you’re seeing communities particularly in the Volusia County area where you had a lot of erosion on the coastline. This has put some structures in jeopardy, and they’re working very hard to make sure everyone is safe.”

Krista Dowling Goodrich, who manages 130 rental homes in Daytona Beach Shores as director of sales and marketing at Salty Dog Vacations, witnessed the beachfront disappear behind some of the properties as evacuations were under way just ahead of the storm. She was trying to reach the scene Thursday morning to see how they fared.

“While we were there the whole backyard just started collapsing into the ocean. It went all the way up to the house,” she said. The water also compromised the remaining land between a row of tall condominium buildings nearby, she said.

Officials in Daytona Beach Shores deemed multiple multi-story coastal residential buildings unsafe, and went door-to-door telling people to grab their possessions and leave.County officials deemed 24 hotels and condos in Daytona Beach Shores unsafe and ordered them to be evacuated, WESH-Ch. 2 reported.

“These were the tall high-rises. So the people who wouldn’t leave, they were physically forcing them out because it’s not safe,” Goodrich said. “I’m concerned for the infrastructure of the area right now because once the seawalls are gone, they’re not going to just let people go back in ... there will be a lot of people displaced for a while.”

Authorities had warned that Nicole’s storm surge could further erode many beaches. The rare November hurricane prompted officials to shut down airports and theme parks and order evacuations.

North of Volusia in Flagler County, it wasn’t homes being washed away by the high surf but a main roadway.

Farther north in St. Johns County, six miles of the waterside State Road A1A are impassable, county officials said in a tweet. Parts of Coastal Highway in St. Augustine crumbled from a combination of Nicole’s storm surge and high tide.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference Thursday that four people died as a result of Nicole. Two people were electrocuted by a downed power line in suburban Orlando.

The man was found dead near his car and a woman traveling with him died at the hospital after both made contact with the power line in the Conway neighborhood southeast of Orlando, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Another man was taken to the hospital after being shocked by a downed power line in a flooded area of St. Augustine, according to News4Jax.

Two other people died in a crash on Florida’s Turnpike in the county Thursday morning, Demings said.

Nicole’s winds unearthed an unexpected find on the beach in Hutchinson Island, where it made landfall – human remains. The Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that they found the remains of six bodies, believed to be from a Native American burial site that is in the same area.

Thousands of people remained without power Thursday night, with over 52,000 outages in Brevard County.

By Thursday morning, the sun was out again in South Florida, as the storm’s wind field pulled away to the north. Some coastal neighborhoods were flooded, and a large section of Anglin’s Pier in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea disappeared.

Palm Beach County lifted its evacuation order late Thursday morning, which had applied to coastal neighborhoods, mobile homes and low-lying areas.

As of 10 p.m., Tropical Depression Nicole was 20 miles north of Tallahassee with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, moving northwest at 15 mph.

Nicole will move over southwestern Georgia and across the western Carolinas on Friday, the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory said. It is expected to dissipate by Friday night.

Few places were still under a tropical storm and storm surge warning: The Flagler/Volusia county line in Florida to Altamaha Sound in Georgia and Aripeka to Indian Pass were under a tropical storm warning. The Flagler/Volusia county line to Altamaha Sound, the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown and the Anclote River to the Ochlockonee River were under a storm surge warning.

After the strike Thursday by a rare November hurricane, the Atlantic is clear of potential storms, according to the National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecast map. Hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30.

Information from the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.