Beach Erosion — A Look Back At Ian And Nicole, Hurricane Season 2022

The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season became one for history books in the U.S.A. Hurricane Ian became the third-costliest hurricane in the nation’s history (estimated at around $113 billion), and the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history.

Sea oats' roots exposed, Amelia Island dune erosion caused by Hurricane Ian. (Photo October 1, 2022)
Sea Oats Roots Exposed, Ian Dune Erosion (Photo Oct. 1, 2022)

Hurricane Ian became a nail-biter as it approached Florida and swept through large areas of the Sunshine State in late September 2022. For local area residents, those living on Amelia Island or elsewhere here in Nassau County in northeast Florida, it was a very happy ending, we were fortunate.

Sadly for others in southwest Florida, a nightmare unfolded with awful destruction and loss of life. Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28, 2022 on the gulf side of the state as a “high-end” Category 4 storm near Cayo Costa, according to NOAA. The unimaginable became a stark reality for various barrier island communities — Sanibel, Captiva, Pine, and Fort Meyers Beach.

In the U.S., “Hurricane Ian was responsible for at least 156 fatalities, 66 of which were considered deaths directly caused by the storm in Florida. Storm surge was the deadliest hazard claiming 41 lives,” according to the National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report (published about six months after the storm, dated April 3, 2023).

Hurricane Season 2022 Had Quiet Start

The 2022 hurricane season had an abnormally quiet start through August. Then, ferocious Ian changed lives and the landscape in southwest Florida in September. Hurricane Ian was followed by a late-in-season November hurricane, Nicole. For perspective, prior to Nicole, the last time a hurricane made landfall in Florida in November was “Kate” in 1985 — the year “Back To The Future,” was a box office smash.

Rare November 2022 Hurricane Further Batters Beaches
PROGRESS WASHED AWAY: Sand gone where dunes had been building up (where bare posts stand). Amelia Island photo November 11, 2022 after Hurricane Nicole & predecessor Ian).
Ian & Nicole Eroded Dunes During 2022 Hurricane Season (Photo Nov. 11, 2022)

As far as the local beaches, Amelia Island’s Atlantic coastal dunes had been impacted by Ian, then further eroded by Nicole during the hurricane season of 2022. A churning ocean ocean with huge waves plus a king tide during November 2022’s Nicole pushed the sea further into Amelia Island’s dunes, as compared to Ian.

In the aftermath of the 2022 hurricane season, Nassau County, Florida received a state grant for beach erosion. Florida Senate Bill 4A awarded funds for battered beaches in 16 Florida coastal counties, including here for Amelia Island’s beaches.

Battered dunes near the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island & Carlton Dunes condo buildings. (Photo Nov. 11, 2022 after Nicole)
Dune Erosion After Nicole Near Ritz-Carlton & Carlton Dunes (Photo Nov. 11, 2022)

The rare November Nicole, (CAT 1), had initially made landfall in southeast Florida in the vicinity of Vero Beach. An enormous system (reportedly 485 miles wide), by the time Nicole departed Florida’s vicinity, it had become a rather brutal tropical storm that battered the beaches along Florida’s east coast.

See related article, “State Awards $922,016 To Nassau County, Florida For Hurricane Beach Erosion” (published January 2023).