St. Johns County

A1A at Vilano Beach back open less than 24 hours after storm surge swept away chunks of road

VILANO BEACH, Fla. — A six-mile stretch of A1A has reopened less than 24 hours after Nicole swept away multiple sections of the highway along Vilano Beach.

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FDOT crews worked throughout the night to reopen A1A.

Carlos Sevilano just moved to Vilano Beach in August. He’s now weathered two storms: Ian and Nicole. And while Nicole may have been a weaker storm based on most metrics, Sevilano said she packed a much stronger punch on the Vilano Beach shoreline.

“I’ve never seen a storm that ate away at the road like it did this time,” said Sevilano.

Sevilano watched as Nicole’s storm surge ate away the dunes, a wooden fence and then ultimately chunks of A1A, causing severe damage to a number of homes along the coastline and leaving residents on the stretch of highway stranded.

“I thought we were gonna be stuck here for two weeks,” said Sevilano.

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But emergency work crews sprang into action. Dirt truck after dirt truck rotated in and out of Vilano Beach Thursday evening. Workers were initially hoping just to reinforce segments of A1A swept away by Nicole’s storm surge.

According to emergency officials, the goal was to prevent further erosion during the overnight high tide cycle.

“We feel like that will be complete tonight, but then further improvements need to be repaired for fuller access throughout this area,” said St. Johns County Public Works Director Greg Caldwell in a briefing Thursday afternoon.

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But by morning’s light, the road was back open to traffic, surpassing the expectations of neighbors. Sevilano said he couldn’t believe how much work crews accomplished in less than 24 hours.

“FDOT, Florida Department of Transportation, are amazing people. They should be known as heroes here because they went above and beyond the call of duty and they made sure that we had a road available again the next day,” said Sevilano. “They stayed up all night with bulldozers and Bobcats and everything and dump trucks and they put the road back.”

While the section of A1A may be open, the repairs are just temporary. It’s unclear how long full restoration efforts will take.

Then of course, there’s the question of how long it will be before Vilano Beach resembles its former self once again.