Hurricane Nicole landed early Thursday along Florida’s east coast south of Vero Beach, the National Hurricane Center said, quickly lost some strength and was relegated to a tropical storm. But it was still hitting a large area of the storm-weary state with strong winds, dangerous storm surge and heavy rain, the center said.
This rare November hurricane has prompted officials to shut down airports and amusement parks and to order evacuation, including ex-president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
Authorities warned that Nicole’s storm surge could damage many beaches even further.
About 82,000 homes and businesses in Florida had no electricity when Nicole approached, according to PowerOutage.pl.
Nicole had a maximum sustained wind of 70mph early Thursday, the US National Hurricane Center reported. The threshold for which a storm can be considered a hurricane is winds that are 74 mph.
It was about 25 miles northwest of Vero Beach and 60 miles southeast of Orlando, and was moving west to northwest at a speed of 14mph.
Tropical storm-force winds from a large storm extended in some directions up to 450 miles from the center.
“The Nicole Center will move across central Florida this morning, likely to emerge over the Far Northeast Gulf of Mexico in the afternoon, and then through Florida West and Georgia in the evening and Friday,” the hurricane center reported.
“… Additional weakness is projected as Nicole will travel overland in the next day or two and the storm is likely to turn into a tropical depression over Georgia either tonight or early Friday. Nicole is expected to connect to the frontier border over the central Atlantic United States by Friday night.
Mike’s Weather Page has captured many dramatic scenes on video, including these:
Nicole became a hurricane on Wednesday evening when it hit Grand Bahama Island after landing just hours earlier on Great Abaco Island as a tropical storm with sustained maximum winds of 70 mph. This is the first storm to hit the Bahamas sincea Category 5 storm that devastated the archipelago in 2019.
For the storm-tired, the Floridians are only the third hurricane in November to hit their shores since record keeping began in 1853. The previous ones were the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and the 1985 Hurricane Kate.
Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s clubhouse and home, was located in one of the escape zones, about a quarter of a mile inland from the ocean. The main buildings sit on a slight elevation about 15 feet above sea level, and the property has survived many more severe hurricanes since it was built almost a century ago. The resort’s security office hung up on Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked if the club was evacuated. Until Wednesday afternoon, there was no sign of an evacuation.
There is no penalty for ignoring an evacuation order, but rescue teams will not respond if it puts their members at risk.
Officials at Daytona Beach Shores have deemed at least half a dozen multi-story coastal apartment buildings unsafe that have already been destroyed by Hurricane Ian and now threatened by Nicole. In some places, authorities went door-to-door, telling people to take their belongings and leave.
Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have announced that they are unlikely to open on Thursday as planned.
Palm Beach International Airport closed Wednesday morning, and Daytona Beach International Airport announced it would suspend operations. The Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the US, has also closed. Further south, officials reported that Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airports and Miami International Airport had experienced several flight delays and cancellations, but both planned to remain open.
At a news conference in Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest problem and significant power cuts could occur, but 16,000 liners were on standby to restore power, as well as 600 rangers and seven search and rescue teams.
Nicole “will affect large parts of Florida all day long,” DeSantis said.
Nearly two dozen school districts have closed schools due to the storm, and 15 shelters have been opened on the east coast of Florida, the governor said.
Forty-five of Florida’s 67 counties were under an emergency declaration.
Warnings and watches were issued for many parts of Florida, including the Southwest coast of the Persian Gulf, which was devastated by Hurricane Ian, which struck a Category 4 storm on September 28. The storm ravaged homes and crops, including orange groves, across the state – damage many are still facing.
Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist in the Miami-based hurricane center, said the storm would affect a large area of Florida.
“Because the system is so large, in fact almost all of Florida’s east coast except the extreme southeast and the Keys will be picked up by tropical storm winds,” he said.
On Wednesday Wednesday, President Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida and ordered federal aid to complement state, tribal and local efforts in response to the impending storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to respond to people who need help in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
Ian brought a storm surge down to 13 feet in late September, causing extensive damage.
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