Hurricane Nicole has weakened into a tropical storm and is expected to weaken further into a depression over Georgia late tonight or early tomorrow, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.
The storm is about 95km southeast of Orlando, Florida, and packing maximum sustained winds of 110km/h, the Miami-based weather forecaster said
Nicole made landfall along the east coast of Florida just south of Vero Beach, the NHC said in a short statement 8am Irish time.
Tropical Storm #Nicole Advisory 13: Nicole Now a Tropical Storm, Centered Over East-Central Florida. Strong Winds, Dangerous Storm Surge and Waves, and Heavy Rains Continue Over a Large Area. https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) November 10, 2022
A hurricane warning was posted for the entire stretch, including the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where NASA's towering, next-generation moon rocket stood exposed to the elements and anchored to its launch pad to ride out the storm.
The NHC also issued storm-surge advisories for much of Florida's east coast, warning that wind-driven waves would wash over beaches and rush inland to flood low-lying areas well beyond the shore.
Storm surges wreaked havoc along the state's Gulf Coast and its eastern seaboard when Hurricane Ian crashed ashore on 28 September and plowed across the Florida Peninsula to the Atlantic, causing an estimated $60 billion (€59.7 billion) in damage and killing more than 140 people.
Nicole was expected to pack less punch at landfall than Ian, which struck Florida as a major Category 4 storm. Authorities warned, however, that Nicole still posed a formidable threat, especially to structures and coastal foundations weakened by Ian.
"Dozens upon dozens" of oceanside buildings in Volusia County, including high-rise condominiums, have been declared structurally unsafe since Ian, with some now "in imminent danger of collapsing" from further shoreline erosion, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
Volusia was one of several coastal counties where officials issued mandatory evacuation orders or advised residents in oceanside communities and barrier islands to seek higher ground.
"This is the last window of opportunity to secure your families and to secure your properties and possibly save some lives," Mr Chitwood said in a video posted online yesterday.
State officials opened 15 emergency shelters across the region, activated 600 National Guard troops and placed 1,600 utility workers on standby to restore power knocked out by the storm.
More than a dozen school districts were closed yesterday and more than 20 school districts across the state were scheduled to be shuttered today. Orlando International Airport announced it was ceasing commercial operations yesterday afternoon.
Even before reaching hurricane strength, the storm unleashed "extensive flooding" across much of the Bahamas, including the islands of Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Andros and the Abacos, National Emergency Management Agency chief Captain Stephen Russell told a news conference.
The storm was declared a hurricane yesterday evening as it made its first landfall on Grand Bahama island in the northwestern corner of the Atlantic West Indies archipelago.
While some "storm tourists" in Florida ventured out to glimpse the roiling surf, pose for cyclone "selfies" or capture a video clip of the gathering storm yesterday, many spent the day battening down property and stocking up on supplies.
"We have had a lot of flooding within the last couple of storms," Leanne Hansard, 53, a Daytona Beach resident, said as she was boarding up windows to her family's insurance office.
"Florida is surrounded by water on all sides, so eventually you're going to have water."