VILANO BEACH, Fla. -- Hurricane Irma left many homes torn apart along Vilano Beach in St. John's County where the erosion was already severe from Hurricane Matthew and years of powerful waves.
State officials, including U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, checked out the damage for themselves Tuesday as Building Department officials surveyed the damage.
Senator Rubio made his way along the Coastal Highway to see the damage for himself, stopping to see a home across from 13th Avenue South that fell into the beach below.
"This is pretty dramatic looking, obviously," said Rubio. "There will be a lot of challenges over the next few months throughout the state of Florida, clearly we are going to have to do something because this can’t keep happening every year."
Rubio says he’s working with local lawmakers to get homeowners in the area housing assistance quickly since many won't be able to return to their homes safely. They are still unsure which homes are salvageable.
"You can tell the difference between this one and the ones with walls," said Rubio.
The walls he referenced worked to protect some homes nearby, but only a handful of houses along Vilano Beach have chosen to build a type of barrier.
Despite the widespread devastation you don’t have to go far to find help in the community. Two brothers worked hard to protect their neighbors before, during and after the hurricane.
"It's a natural disaster, a time of need, we have to help each other out, hopefully, the favor gets returned to you someday," said Robert Barnes as he worked to remove debris from his neighbor's yards.
He and his brother Quang Vo worked nonstop to help the homes along their street get the piles of debris stacked on the side of the road in hopes that the city would remove it soon.
"I'm the youngest one on the street, they can't do it. We put sandbags before the hurricane, now we are just helping to clean up," said Vo.
As they worked to help out their neighbor's fire department crews continued their tireless efforts across the street on the beach to keep the community safe by blocking off areas where kids were reportedly climbing on fallen debris. They had to block off parts of the beach where decks and 4x4s were left dangling with nothing to hold them up anymore.
The city says it took four weeks to go through the damage assessment for Hurricane Matthew in 2016 so they expect the process to take about the same time. They ask residents to be patient and for visitors to the beach to steer clear of the homes as they could still fall with the worsening erosion.
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