By Tom Ozimek
The National Weather Service said Nicole has been downgraded to a tropical storm shortly after making landfall along Florida’s east coast as a Category 1 hurricane, pounding coastal areas with heavy rain, dangerous storm surge, and damaging waves.
With sustained winds of around 75 mph, Nicole made landfall as a hurricane on Hutchinson Island, just south of Vero Beach, along the east coast of Florida, at around 3 a.m. on Nov. 10, the agency said in an advisory.
A subsequent advisory downgraded Nicole to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, with the weather system centered over east-central Florida.
For a storm to be classified as a hurricane, it must have maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph.
By 4 a.m., Nicole remained a large tropical storm, with “strong winds, dangerous storm surge and waves, and heavy rains” continuing over large areas, the National Weather Service said in the advisory.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect from Boca Raton, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina; from North of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass, Florida; and around Lake Okeechobee.
Storm surge warnings were in effect from Jupiter Inlet, Florida, to Altamaha Sound, Georgia; from the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown, Florida; and from Altamaha Sound, Georgia, to South Santee River, South Carolina.
A storm surge warning means there’s a danger of life-threatening conditions as water levels rise and move inland from the coast.
At least 45 of Florida’s 67 counties were put under a state of emergency owing to Nicole.
At a news conference in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that winds were the biggest concern and significant power outages could occur.
“It will affect huge parts of the state of Florida all day,” DeSantis said, adding that 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power as well as 600 guardsmen and seven search and rescue teams.
President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida and ordered federal assistance to bolster local efforts.
Nicole making landfall as a hurricane was a rare November occurrence for storm-weary Florida, with only two such events since record keeping began in 1853—the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and Hurricane Kate in 1985.
The National Weather Service said it expects Nicole will weaken further as it continues to move over land, and is likely to be reclassified as a tropical depression over Georgia on Thursday night or early Friday.