WILBUR-BY-THE-SEA, Fla. – "Unbelievable."
That's how Philip Martin describes the destruction to his three homes damaged recently by Hurricane Nicole.
"The weather, the Atlantic Ocean and the storm was just a perfect mixture," he said.
At first, Martin said he decided to stay in his Wilbur-by-the-Sea home as the ocean chipped away at his property. Eventually, he had to leave. He had no choice.
"As it ate away, it was just it was so fast," he said.
Martin said he had walked outside during the storm and witnessed four-foot chucks of his home fall 28 feet into the ocean.
When Hurricane Ian hit Wilbur-by-the Sea it damaged the existing seawall. Martin said he was able to build a composite seawall, but, unfortunately, it didn't hold up with Nicole, bringing estimated 15-foot waves over the wall and slammed against the windows of his home.
"Just sucked it away, like it was tissue paper. There was nothing there," he said.
Even the rocks that Martin put down to support the composite seawall – some about one-third the size of a Volkswagen – are now gone.
"There's no sign of them," he said. "We watched them disappear into the ocean very, very fast. And there's no sign of them."
Nicole made landfall early Thursday morning near Vero Beach as a Category 1 hurricane before sweeping north and across the Florida Peninsula, causing major flooding. Authorities have attributed at least five deaths to Nicole.
Ian was a much stronger Category 4 hurricane, and Martin feels if it weren't for that storm's arrival weeks before Nicole, his home would not have suffered the same results.
"Ian was so destructive, it took our seawalls off," Martin said. "Some of them are 18 feet tall, two-feet thick of concrete. It laid them down like they were nothing."
His homes are beyond repair, but Martin said Volusia County and even Governor Ron DeSantis have been supportive.
"They're all there to help," he said. "Everybody's there to help."
Nearly 50 structures in Volusia County have been deemed structurally unsafe due to erosion. These include at least 25 single-family homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea evacuated after damages. Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald said the structural damage along the coastline is unprecedented.
"We have never experienced anything like this before," he said. "This is going to be a long road to recovery."