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Condo Owners Struggle to Adjust to Life at the Beach in the Wake of Hurricane Nicole

USCondo Owners Struggle to Adjust to Life at the Beach in the Wake of Hurricane Nicole

This little settlement on a barrier island was unusually deserted on Friday, a typically busy day for Florida’s Atlantic coast tourist destinations. The day before, Hurricane Nicole tore into Daytona Beach Shores, and there were few automobiles and even fewer people on the major artery, Atlantic Avenue.

The strip’s enormous condos, hotels, and beachfront motels, many of which were abandoned and declared hazardous, stood out the most.

Volusia County has ordered the evacuation of 27 condos and hotels as of Friday evening, including 22 in Daytona Beach Shores and five in New Smyrna Beach. According to county officials, they had been compromised by damaged sea walls and water penetration, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands of inhabitants. Another 30 houses in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, an unincorporated neighbourhood just south of Daytona Beach Shores, were perched on the dunes’ edge.

Pat Kuehn, a county spokesperson, said, “Nicole’s harm has compounded Ian’s damage, making the situation highly perilous and unstable.”

Ms. Kuehn said that since Thursday, building authorities and structural experts have been examining the damage, building by building, which they estimate to cost $471 million and would take “at least several days” to complete.

In the meanwhile, evacuated homeowners are grappling not just with the short-term realities of being relocated, but also existential considerations about the affordability of their cherished Florida beach lifestyle. As severe weather continues to wreak havoc, the costs associated with oceanfront living — repairs, insurance, and upkeep — will inevitably rise.

There are about 1.5 million residential condominium units in Florida, and many of them are elderly, according to some estimates. In June 2021, 98 people were killed when the Champlain Towers South residential high-rise in Surfside, Florida, fell. Legislators later enacted a measure requiring condominium and cooperative societies to reevaluate existing buildings and set aside funding for repairs by the end of 2024.

Greg Main-Baillie, a Florida-based building and development specialist with the investment management firm Colliers, said that the state’s two recent storms bolstered the necessity for the law.

David Haber, a lawyer who specialises in condominium lawsuits, believed that everyone participating in the reconstruction would be exceedingly cautious. After the fall of the Champlain Towers, he said, “they’re going to take more precautions.”

Nanette McKeel Petrella, the owner of three properties in one of the evacuated buildings, Castaways Beach Resort, anticipated that expenses would increase. A portion of the pool deck of the structure had fallen, with fractures running up and down the remaining portion. In addition, portions of the seawall had disintegrated.

Ms. McKeel Petrella, 66, is a member of the building’s board, and she anticipated that the board would hike fees to pay for the necessary repairs. “It’s the truth,” she said.

She said that she was more worried about elderly and handicapped individuals than herself.

On Friday afternoon, a small number of Castaways residents waited in the building’s lobby, angered and upset by the local police’s demands to vacate the facility, which they felt to be safe.

In rage, a guy tore down a sign. Michael Riviera, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a mobility scooter, said that he was unable to return to his residence on the fifth floor because the elevator was out of service. He reported spending the prior night at a motel for which he paid $134. Now he had to get his personal stuff and medical supplies.

The 66-year-old owner of two apartments, Robert Longmire, characterised the structure as “absolutely functional.” He said, “They have now shut off the hot water. They are attempting to make life difficult for those who refuse to go.”

Mr. Longmire removed an American flag from behind the front desk and put it outside the front entrance in contravention of the evacuation instructions.

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