PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — WPTV's Chopper 5 took aerial footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Nicole in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
Chopper 5 Photographer Johann Hoffend spoke with WPTV Anchor Mike Trim about his journey over the damage Thursday morning.
Before he took off from the Palm Beach International Airport hangar, he did what he always does.
"Going up I say a prayer and really hope that all I can report is some positive things in news," said Hoffend. "If it's something bad of course I'm going to show you and explain what it looks like."
What will be seen through this birds-eye view is unknown until the moment Chopper 5 reveals it.
Stuart's Sansprit Park started the WPTV coverage from the sky.
"You still have storm surge up here to contend with. My goodness it went all the way up here," Hoffend said during the 9 a.m. broadcast.
Next up was Martin County's Bathtub Beach.
"The water came completely over the dunes and all the way into this area. Look at how much sand has moved up," said Hoffend. "And this whole street area was with sand. You can tell it's still wet. Look at the debris marker."
Hoffend also spotted a bulldozer clearing sand from McArthur Boulevard on Hutchinson Island.
"But right here, kudos to the cleanup crew, to the people that come out and make things happen cause this road was completely washed out with sand," he said.
The news got better as Hoffend noticed the usual spots for storm surge like Nettles Island in St. Lucie County weren’t heavily damaged.
"This little community, it's been here forever, it's been through everything,” he said as he flew above.
"Mobile homes it's a mixture, but the boats, all intact, no problems here."
Scanning through the Jensen Beach and Stuart area, a business that took a hit from Hurricane Nicole.
“This business here did have some flooding on the inside," he said. "They had it pretty good there, but it's still standing. I mean, the bottom line is it's still standing. It's not a complete rebuild."
Hoffend also described the scene over the Juno Beach Pier close to 10 a.m. newscast.
"Let's watch this one roll right in right on the top and bottom, right there. It's not necessarily high tide right now, but the wind and water has brought the water all the way to the shoreline," said Hoffend. "Quickly I'll show you a shore shot as I adjust the iris, look how high the waves and wind and type of storm surge we've had. That's just from today."
Hoffend wrapped up the post-hurricane flight with his observations.
"We're not seeing any major or catastrophic, remember the words, major or catastrophic damage," he said.
After 20 years in the chopper, dodging major hurricane damage means so much more to the Chopper 5 photographer.
"It can just wipe away your hard-earned money and dreams in a few hours and I'm just terrified when I go up," he said. "That's why sometimes it sounds like I'm very happy to report minor damage."