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Hurricane Nicole hits Florida, weakens to tropical storm

Al Jazeera logo Al Jazeera 11/10/2022
Storm tides enter the parking lot at Daytona Beach before the arrival of Hurricane Nicole in Volusia County, Florida [Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Storm tides enter the parking lot at Daytona Beach before the arrival of Hurricane Nicole in Volusia County, Florida [Reuters]

Hurricane Nicole has weakened to a tropical storm after making landfall in the US state of Florida’s east coast, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm brought heavy rains and fierce winds, and came as some coastal areas were still reeling from the last major storm – Hurricane Ian – which hit six weeks ago.

As Nicole approached, a hurricane warning was posted for a 550km (240 miles) coastal stretch that included the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where NASA’s new moon rocket stood exposed to the elements and anchored to its launch pad.

The storm officially made landfall at 3am local time and brought sustained winds of up to 120kmph (75mph) as it moved along the east coast of Florida north of Miami, the National Hurricane Center said.

Authorities warned Nicole posed a formidable threat, particularly to structures and coastal foundations weakened by Ian, which destroyed homes and damaged crops across the state, killing at least 114 people in Florida.

Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood warned “dozens upon dozens” of oceanside buildings in the county, including high-rise condominiums, have been declared structurally unsafe since Ian, with some “in imminent danger of collapsing” in the event of further shoreline erosion.

Volusia was one of several coastal counties to issue mandatory evacuation orders or advised residents in oceanside communities and barrier islands to seek higher ground.

At some locations, authorities went door-to-door telling people to grab their possessions and leave.

“This is the last window of opportunity to secure your families and to secure your properties and possibly save some lives,” Chitwood said.

At a news conference on Wednesday in Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern and significant power outages could occur, but 16,000 personnel were on standby to restore power as well as 600 guardsmen and seven search-and-rescue teams. State officials also opened 15 emergency shelters across the region.

“It will affect huge parts of the state of Florida all day,” DeSantis said.

More than a dozen school districts were closed. Orlando International Airport announced it was ceasing commercial operations on Wednesday afternoon.

The storm, which was first declared a hurricane on Wednesday, had previously unleashed extensive flooding across much of the Bahamas.

Nicole is only the third November hurricane to hit Florida’s shores since record-keeping began in 1853. The previous ones were the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and Hurricane Kate in 1985.

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