Noel Churns Near Florida Coast

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning today for the southeastern Florida coast from Ocean Reef to Deerfield Beach as Noel's gusty winds skirted the area, according to The Associated Press.

A tropical storm watch also is in effect from north of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet.

Noel has killed at least 81 people and triggered mudslides in the Caribbean. Forecasters warned of worsening storm conditions in the Bahamas, according to the AP.

But the rainfall or the wind may not be as damaging as the erosion they cause, as the storm produces offshore winds.

Beach Erosion

Some stateside worry the storm could wash out beaches from Miami to the Georgia border.

In Singer Island, near West Palm Beach, Fla., people raced to shore up a sea wall to protect luxury condominiums. Waves and erosion already are winning.

"They're just undermining washing the dirt out from the toe of the wall and it's letting the dirt from behind the wall wash out from underneath it," said resident Keith Corrigan.

Neither rainfall nor wind is the major cause of the erosion, however. Experts said dunes and sea walls aren't enough. To protect property, the beach sand must be replenished.

"[The Singer Island officials] didn't replenish the beaches and that's what's causing the problems there," said marine geologist Charles Finkl of Coastal Planning and Engineering.

Crashing waves already have taken one 20-foot high dune and eroded it to its foundation.

Already the waves have eroded this 20-foot high dune right to the foundation, and with a forecast of continued 10 to 15 feet waves, the fear is that with every high tide the erosion will worsen.

For those living right on the water the ground can feel like it's literally falling out from under them.

Florida is not the only state at risk. Areas along the Gulf of Mexico are worse, with more than six feet of shore disappearing annually.

Other problem areas include the Carolinas, which lose about two feet a year. But, during a major storm the number can rise to 100 feet in a day.

And in California, 86 percent of its sandy shores have eroded.