Tropical Storm Nicole hits Florida and Georgia

VERO BEACH, Florida –

Tropical Storm Nicole hit Florida as a hurricane on Thursday, stripping away remaining protections for a swath of beachfront properties that lost their seawalls in Hurricane Ian a few weeks prior. In Daytona Beach Shores, rising ocean waters threatened the foundations of at least a dozen condos and high-rise homes.

Nicole remains a sprawling tropical storm, blanketing nearly all of the weary state of Florida early Thursday while also reaching Georgia and the Carolinas. Damaging winds extended up to 450 miles (720 kilometers) from the center in some directions as Nicole turned north over central Florida Thursday morning.

Krista Dowling Goodrich, who manages 130 rental homes in Daytona Beach Shores as director of sales and marketing at Salty Dog Vacations, saw the waterfront disappear behind some properties as evacuations were underway.

« While we were there, the whole garden started to crumble into the ocean. It went all the way to the house, » she said. The water also compromised the remaining land between a row of nearby tall condominiums, she said.

Daytona Beach Shores officials deemed several multi-story coastal residential buildings unsafe and went door to door telling people to grab their belongings and leave.

« Those were the big skyscrapers. So people who didn’t want to leave, they were physically forcing them out because it wasn’t safe, » Goodrich said. « I’m worried about the infrastructure in the area at the moment because once the levees are removed they won’t just let people in…there will be a lot of displaced people for a while. »

November’s rare hurricane prompted officials to close airports and theme parks and order evacuations in areas that included former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. Authorities have warned that storm surge from Nicole could further erode many beaches hit by Hurricane Ian in September.

Nicole made landfall near Vero Beach as a Category 1 hurricane around 3 a.m. Thursday, more than one hundred miles south of Daytona Beach Shores, before its maximum sustained winds dropped to 60 mph (100 km/ h), the Miami-based center said. The storm was centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Orlando. It was moving west-northwest at nearly 14 mph (22 km/h).

Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, advised people to understand that the dangers of Tropical Storm Nicole « will exist today throughout the state of Florida. » Nicole came to emerge briefly over the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon before moving over the Florida Panhandle and Georgia, he said.

The storm left southern Florida sunny and calm as it moved north, but could dump up to 6 inches of rain on the Blue Ridge Mountains by Friday, the hurricane center said.

A few tornadoes were possible through Thursday morning in east-central northeast Florida, forecasters said. Flash and urban flooding will be possible, along with further flooding of the St. Johns River across the Florida peninsula on Thursday. Heavy rain will spread north through the eastern Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and New England through Saturday.

Nicole became a hurricane Wednesday night as it slammed into Grand Bahama Island. It was the first to hit the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm that devastated the archipelago in 2019.

For storm-weary Floridians, this is only the third November hurricane to hit their shores since record-keeping began in 1853. The previous ones were Hurricane Yankee in 1935 and Hurricane Kate in 1985.

Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club and home, was in one of the evacuation zones, built about a quarter-mile inland from the ocean. The main buildings sit on a small rise approximately 15 feet (4.6 meters) above sea level and the property has survived many stronger hurricanes since it was built nearly a century ago. . The station’s security office hung up on Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked if the club was being evacuated, and there was no sign of an evacuation Wednesday afternoon.

There is no penalty for ignoring an evacuation order, but rescue teams will not respond if doing so puts their members at risk.

Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort said they likely won’t open as planned on Thursday.

Forty-five of Florida’s 67 counties were under a state of emergency declaration. President Joe Biden also approved an emergency declaration for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, ordering federal aid to the tribal nation, many of whose members live on six reservations around the state. The tribe also owns the Hard Rock Cafe franchise, with several of its hotels and casinos on Nicole’s way.

At a Wednesday press conference in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern and major power outages could occur, but 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power as well. than 600 guards and seven search and rescue teams.

« It will affect huge parts of the state of Florida all day, » DeSantis said of the storm’s expected landfall.

Nearly two dozen school districts were closing schools for the storm and 15 shelters had opened along Florida’s east coast, the governor said.

Parts of Florida were devastated by Hurricane Ian, which hit as a Category 4 storm. Ian destroyed homes and damaged crops, including orange groves, across the state – damage that many are still facing – and sent a storm surge up to 13 feet (4 meters) ashore, causing widespread destruction.


Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale.


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