ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County officials are reporting an estimated $34 million dollars in damage caused by Tropical Storm Nicole. The county is now hoping FEMA will declare it a disaster area to release resources to rebuild.
Dunes have been washed away, roads have been washed out and beachfront homes -- left on the brink. St. Johns County officials said on Tuesday that there’s still work to be done to measure the true impact of Nicole, especially after Ian.
Director of St. Johns County Emergency Management, Joseph Giammanco said, “It’s more sand that we think we lost in Ian than we did in Hurricane Matthew.” Giammanco goes on to say, “The areas that we, with our initial data, it’s looking like Crescent and Butler Beach were the areas that had the most significant amount of sand loss, but the entire beach had significant impacts.”
At Ponte Vedra Beach, the dune loss is obvious to locals like Phil Barlage. “When I came up here after the last storm, it looked like they’d lost some sand,” Barlage said. “But this storm looks like it took most of it.”
Giammanco says the berm put up to protect 11 miles of coastline after Matthew and Irma did its job protecting homes and properties this year. But, Nicole decimated what was left of it.
News4JAX reporter Anne Maxwell asked Giammanco, “To get the beaches back to the way they were, I mean, is that going to cost like tens of millions of dollars would you say?”
He answered, “I would say a lot more than that. To put it in perspective, the Matthew Irma project, which was 11 miles of coastline was around $33 million. And that only provided the dune, that didn’t provide the flat part or the towel spaces.”
“They’re going to have to do a lot more work to figure out in the long run,” Barlage said. “Really, what’s the wise thing to do as to not waste all this money and time and just have Mother Nature take it away?”
There are several dune restoration projects that were already scheduled to begin next year in the areas of Vilano Beach and the St. Augustine pier. As for other damaged areas, the county is at the very beginning of that process.