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Nicole has weakened to tropical storm after making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane along the east coast of Florida early Thursday morning, lashing the region with heavy rain and dangerous storm surge as it became the first hurricane to strike the US in November in nearly 40 years.
The storm struck just south of Vero Beach with winds of 75 mph before weakening to a tropical storm shortly after, the National Hurricane Center said. It’s bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall to some areas hit by Hurricane Ian less than two months ago.
Nicole’s colossal path has led to the closures of many schools, colleges and universities as well as the cancellation of hundreds of flights and the shuttering of amusement parks. Additionally, some residents evacuated their homes after they were deemed unsafe and at risk of collapse due to the storm’s impact.
In Volusia County, officials told people to leave more than 20 buildings found to be structurally unsound due to Ian’s impact in late September.
“There is a strong potential that one or more buildings will collapse during the storm,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood told CNN affiliate WESH-TV on Wednesday. “Right now, ground zero is here.”
Nicole, which also threatens to whip up tornadoes, is expected to weaken to a depression early Friday and become a post-tropical cyclone over the Southeast.
On Wednesday evening, Nicole brought strong winds and dangerous storm surge to the northwestern Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center in the US said.
Here’s what to know:
Tens of thousands without power: More than 80,000 homes and businesses were without power early Thursday after the storm made landfall in Florida, according to Poweroutage.us. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Boca Raton to the Flagler-Volusia County Line in Florida. Up to 8 inches of rain can drench eastern, central and northern portions of Florida. Plus, between 2 to 6 inches are expected from parts of the US southeast to the southern and central Appalachians and western mid-Atlantic through Friday, the hurricane center said.
Historic hurricane: Nicole’s landfall Thursday was historic because it became the latest in a calendar year a hurricane has ever struck Florida’s Atlantic coast. The storm’s landfall broke a previous record set by the Yankee Hurricane, which hit Florida’s east coast on November 4, 1935.
Residents urged to evacuate unsafe buildings: Ahead of Nicole’s landfall, officials asked people to evacuate some buildings deemed unsafe to withstand the storm. In New Smyrna Beachofficials determined some condos are unsound due to the erosion of a sea wall. And in Daytona Beach Shores, which is still reeling from Hurricane Ian’s impact, at least 11 buildings are at risk of collapseaccording to Public Safety Department Director Michael Fowler.
School closures and flight cancellations: Many school districts, colleges and universities have closed as the storm approaches, according to the Florida Department of Education. Orlando International Airport halted operations Wednesday afternoon, and Miami International Airport said cancellations are possiblebut it does not plan on closing.
South Carolina residents should prepare: People across the state should prepare for the likelihood that Nicole could bring heavy rain and winds. “Given the uncertainty of the storm’s strength and path as it approaches South Carolina, residents need to have their personal emergency plans ready to go just in case we need to take safety precautions later in the week,” said Kim Stenson, who heads the state’s emergency management division.