Florida in 'mad rush' to repair pulverized roads after Hurricane Nicole

By Thomas Leffler,

In the wake of Hurricane Nicole's damage and destruction to the Florida coastline, state Department of Transportation crews once again found themselves in hurricane-repair mode as they acted quickly to haul out massive mounds of sand that washed upon coastal roads during the storm's considerable surge.

Crews from FDOT have been working tirelessly since the devastation of Hurricane Ian in September. They now have had their hands full once more as Nicole shifted the coastline and ripped apart asphalt in locations such as Vilano Beach, about 40 miles southeast of Jacksonville.


"What you see going on right now is a mad rush, really, to get the road back open to traffic," Florida Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue told AccuWeather national reporter Bill Wadell. "Get it secure so that the life safety mission can be fulfilled, so that individuals can move about their daily lives and recover from the storm."

Florida Department of Transportation crews acted fast in the wake of Hurricane Nicole, repairing a section of State Road A1A along Vilano Beach. Photo by AccuWeather

State Road A1A, a route that runs along the Atlantic Ocean, was torn apart at Vilano Beach due to Nicole's strength and, in some spots, it collapsed, leaving some residents stranded on the barrier island. The fast-working FDOT crews, many pulled away from home to deal with yet another natural disaster, were able to quickly complete emergency repairs on the road.

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Crews began work on Thursday, right after the storm hit Florida's eastern coastline. FDOT used thousands of yards of fill material, hauled by dozens of dump trucks, to make the road passable for the traveling public. Besides the Vilano Beach repairs, FDOT crews were able to complete two other crucial sections of A1A repair in Flagler Beach and the town of Ormond-by-the-Sea.

About 14 miles of sand and debris were also cleared in Volusia and Flagler counties during the process.

Overall, work that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said would "normally take much longer" was wrapped up in just a couple of days.

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"One of the things that is just unbelievable is the amount of time and energy that people dedicate to responding to a storm," Purdue said.

Hurricane Nicole's considerable storm surge ripped apart asphalt along State Road A1A in Vilano Beach, demanding a quick response from the Florida Department of Transportation. Photo by AccuWeather

The debate continues on the future of Florida's barrier islands and coastal roadways, with millions of dollars in repairs and resilience projects needed after the back-to-back landfalls of Ian and Nicole. Apart from being used as passageways, dune restoration is crucial for the ecosystem and, in particular, plant life, which provides essential habitat and food for many species of wildlife.

"Many parts of the coastal dune ecosystem across the Florida Panhandle have been severely damaged by tropical storms over the past 25 years ... unfortunately, as dune systems have become fragmented, many plant species removed by storm events are not readily able to recolonize those areas," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote on the agency's website to promote its dune ecosystem restoration projects. "Restoring vegetation is critical for the long-term resilience of the coastal dune systems and to ensure those systems regain their natural biodiversity and ecological functions."

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While the need for dune projects presented itself once again during Nicole, the beach erosion has brought out several Floridians who have taken to the hobby of metal detecting with the hopes of finding hidden relics from centuries-old shipwrecks that might have washed ashore.

Floridians took to the beaches in the wake of Hurricane Nicole, attempting to find lost relics that may have washed ashore. Photo by AccuWeather

"For us metal detectors, we feel really bad for the people whose lives are affected, but at the same time, I'm not going to lie, we get this excitement," Florida resident Miranda Eubank said. "It doesn't take away from how hard it is on the people, but it's definitely like Christmas for us."

Storms such as Ian and Nicole have become a fact of life for these treasure hunters, with resident Kea Eubank unsure of how the state is going to continue dealing with disasters such as Ian and Nicole.

"I feel like we're going to get more storms," Eubank said. "I feel like each year there will be at least one hurricane and probably quite a bit of erosion, so either accept it or come up with a plan. I'm not sure."

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