VERO BEACH, FLORIDA — Hurricane Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane just south of Vero Beach early Thursday morning. The storm weakened back to a tropical storm shortly after landfall.
Governor Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern, and significant power outages could occur. In a news conference, he told residents that 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power as well as 600 guardsmen and seven search and rescue teams.
The storm caused severe beach erosion overnight, extensive flooding in the Treasure Coast, and downed trees across Indian River County. Currently, 335,000 homes are still without power.
At least a half dozen multi-story, coastal residential buildings in Daytona Beach, already deemed unsafe by Hurricane Ian, have suffered extensive damage. In some locations, authorities went door-to-door, telling people to grab their possessions and leave.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Nicole is still a large storm, with tropical storm-force winds extending up to 450 miles from the center. “These hazards will continue to affect much of the Florida peninsula and portions of the southeast United States,” the National Hurricane Center warned Thursday morning.
Maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts will affect central Florida throughout the day. As heavy rain and wind move across the state, officials warn residents to stay inside and off local roads as significant flooding is possible later Thursday.
Nicole is moving west-northwest quickly. The storm is forecast to pass over the Gulf of Mexico Thursday afternoon near Homosassa Springs and Crystal River in Citrus County before turning northwest back into Florida.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts heavy rain, possibly up to 8 inches in some areas, with flash and urban flooding through Saturday. In addition, tropical storm-force winds are expected along Florida’s west coast Thursday night.
“Do not focus on the exact track of Nicole since it is a large storm with hazards extending well to the north of the center, outside of the forecast cone,” the hurricane center said.
A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet is forecast from Anclote River to the Ochlockonee River. “The storm surge will be accompanied by large and damaging waves along the Atlantic coast. Residents in the warning area should listen to the advice given by local officials,” the National Hurricane Center said.
TROPICAL STORM NICOLE WATCHES/WARNINGS
Tropical Storm Warning: Jupiter in Palm Beach County north to the South Santee River in South Carolina. A warning also remains north of Bonita Beach to the Indian Pass. And for Lake Okeechobee.
Storm Surge Warning: Florida’s Jupiter Inlet to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. A warning also remains for the mouth of Florida’s St. Johns River to Georgetown. A warning remains on Florida’s Gulf coast from the Anclote River to the Ochlockonee River.
Storm Surge Watch: Ochlockonee River to Florida’s Indian Pass. A watch also remains from Altamaha Sound, Georgia, to the South Santee River, South Carolina.
For more information on Tropical Storm Nicole, including emergency evacuation orders, visit floridadisaster.org.