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Nicole may have been only a category 1 hurricane, but it did an estimated $2.8 million in damage to Key Biscayne’s Atlantic beach, village officials said in a report to Miami-Dade County. The estimate is being used to formulate a disaster aid request. 

Roland Samimy, the island’s chief resilience officer, said the excessive ocean swell, storm surge and wind appears to have erased 31,000 cubic yards of sand that was placed on the 1.2 mile stretch of coastline during the last beach renourishment project.

“The initial damage estimate indicates the total loss of the sand deployed on the beach during the 2021 beach renourishment project,” Samimy wrote last week. 

The Village is working with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Emergency Management on getting aid from state and federal sources. The U.S. Congress is working on a supplemental appropriation for Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, but it’s not yet clear if damage from Nicole will be added, said Village Manager Steve Williamson. 

Even though Nicole made landfall near Vero Beach, 135 miles from Key Biscayne, the system was nearly 500 miles wide. And that breadth added to the effects of a full moon and sea level rise, said Brian McNoldy, a meteorologist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science.

On Virginia Key, he said Nicole caused a flood gauge to report the 4th highest tide ever recorded, with water levels that spent 19 hours above mean high tide, but noted the storm only contributed two-thirds of that. 

Flooding in a parkling lot in Key Biscayne, Nov. 10, 2022. Officials said the flooding was due to a combination of Hurricane Nicole, high tide, and sea level rise. The storm made landfall 135 miles away from Key Biscayne but had statewide effects (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

“Sea level rise gives storms today a huge advantage in generating higher storm tides compared to 20 or 60 years ago. The same will be true in the future.” 

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Of the damage to the island, Williamson said he was not surprised.

“You step back and you think about the forces of Nature and the powers of Nature,” he said. “The vulnerabilities we face are antiquated sea walls, improper drainage. Nature is nature.”

Elsewhere in Florida, damages are estimated at more than $522 million in Volusia County, where homes collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean. 

The damages exceeded those from the much stronger Hurricane Ian, which caused $377 million in the county, officials said. Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm, made landfall in southwest Florida in late September and tore across the state.

Moody’s Investors Service estimated insured losses from Ian at between $40 billion and $70 billion in Florida and North Carolina. There were 137 deaths attributed to Ian, a state medical examiners board reported Monday.

Severe beach erosion from Ian made homes vulnerable to the impact of Nicole in Wilbur-by-the Sea, a quaint beach community where single-family homes fell into the ocean last week. Volusia County officials said that 29 single-family homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea had damage and that 17 were deemed unsafe following Hurricane Nicole. 

Additionally, seven single-family homes in nearby Ponce Inlet and three homes in New Smyrna Beach were deemed unsafe by inspectors.

In Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach, two dozen multistory condo buildings have been evacuated and deemed unsafe by building inspectors. However, building inspectors said that another seven condo buildings that had been considered dangerous after the storm were found to be safe Monday and residents were allowed to return.

For storm-weary Floridians, Nicole was the first November hurricane to hit their shores since 1985 and only the third since record-keeping began in 1853.

The storm was blamed for five deaths in Florida. A man and a woman were killed by electrocution when they touched downed power lines in the Orlando area. Also in Orange County, one man died in a vehicle crash, and a male pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle because of poor road conditions. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow...