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Texas man's home becomes island after storm surge from Hurricane Nicholas

By Mark Puleo, Accuweather.com

Residents like Chris Sims move to places like Treasure Island, Texas, to soak up the pleasures of life on the coast and the perks of living in "a small beach community with a big fishing problem," as the town describes itself on its website.

Sims has loved nearly all of his time living in Treasure Island since moving there from Dallas two years ago. When AccuWeather national reporter Bill Wadell asked Sims what he loves about living on the water, he responded simply, "It's on the water."

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But this week, that water came a bit too close for Sims' preference. For Sims and the rest of the small beach community, the disastrous events brought on by Hurricane Nicholas probably won't be used as marketing material on the town's welcome website.

"Ninety-eight percent is great," Sims said of his life on the island. "This is the 2% you got to deal with it."

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At the peak of Nicholas' wrath, that 2% meant 2 feet of water outside his house, where Sims and his wife were hunkered down inside.

Sims rode out the storm in his stilted, yellow home, which, as could be seen in this drone image captured by Wadell, looked like it could have been in the middle of the ocean. Photo by Bill Wadell/Accuweather
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In one area of the home, the couple propped up a mattress over a glass sliding door that was bowing from the force of the hurricane's winds. In the bathroom, Sims looked out the window with a flashlight to have his neighbor spot him. The neighbor said the water was nearly covering him.

"That's the highest it's ever flooded since I've been here, and it's the worst winds since I've been here," Sims said, a cigarette wedged between his fingers as he gestured. "Wasn't fun."

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Fun is a word that Melanie Cavanaugh, a resident of Lake Jackson, probably wouldn't use to describe the events of the last couple of days, either.

Wadell caught up with Cavanaugh in the nearby city of Surfside Beach, where she manages a cleaning service that oversees vacation rental homes. Cavanaugh said she and her colleagues always check on the houses after any storm, but the wounds left behind by Nicholas were unique.

Several of the houses the service manages sustained significant damage, including collapsed walls, a ripped-off roof and blown-in windows. Cavanaugh's home in Lake Jackson wasn't spared, either. She said her fence was blown down, the power went out and the windows shook uncontrollably.

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"This was way crazy. We were not expecting this at all," she said. "First of all, I thought it was just going to be a tropical storm. I thought it was going to hit closer to Matagorda, then it's like at the last minute it veered more here."

While Nicholas did indeed hit Matagorda, where it made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, its impacts were certainly not isolated.

Residents were surprised that one oceanfront home on Surfside Beach completely collapsed amid the high winds Nicholas packed and the storm surge it stirred up. Drone footage showed the home lying in a heap on the beach. According to neighbors with whom Wadell spoke, the home had been empty since sustaining damage during the 2020 hurricane season.

"Everything is just wiped out," Cavanaugh said, adding that, as far as she knew, the damage to the home from last year's rough weather was minimal. "I can't believe it's gone."

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All along the eastern coast of Texas, hundreds of thousands of customers found themselves without power this week. Dozens of areas were inundated with 5 to 10 inches of rain, and many others were on the receiving end of violent wind gusts.

Pamela Winkworth, who works with Cavanaugh, told Wadell that one of the impacts of a storm that many people may not consider is that all that debris ends up being deposited on those scenic beaches.

For year-round residents like Cavanaugh and Winkworth, that's heartbreaking enough to grab a trash bag and hit the sand for some post-storm cleanup efforts.

"We were just coming down here to pick up some of the trash before it washes into the ocean because people usually don't care and just walk by it," Winkworth said. "I don't go to the dump to lay out and play in the water, so why bring the dump where I lay out and play in the water? So we just wanted to come out and pick up some trash."

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