MIAMI — Hurricane Nicole made landfall just south of Vero Beach early Thursday morning with much of its worst damage already done along a Florida coastline battered by high surf and storm surge that undermined pool decks and sent at least a few buildings tumbling into the sea.
Nicole came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds but almost immediately weakened to tropical storm strength as it moved inland. But its massive wind field and bands of powerful thunderstorms extended hundreds of miles to the north, bringing gusts up to 60 mph and drenching rains across much of the upper half of the state — from Tampa to Cocoa Beach.
Conditions quickly improved in its southern wake. By mid-morning, there were no storm watches or warnings for Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach. With the worst of the winds over, Miami-Dade planned to reopen schools Thursday, while dozens of other districts across the state remained closed.
“Impacts have been basically what’s been expected,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference at the state's emergency operations center in Tallahassee. “You do have downed trees, you have power lines, you have some road washouts, combined winds and storm surge.”
The storm’s cold outer rain bands could create tornadoes, with the most recent one recorded about 8:30 a.m. in St. Johns County, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said. Floridians who receive a weather alert for a tornado should shelter in an interior part of their home, he said.
More than 50 counties were under a tropical storm warning Thursday morning, a number that is expected to drop as Nicole moves across the state. Roughly 330,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday morning, DeSantis said.
“This is obviously not as significant a storm as Hurricane Ian was,” he said.
But some communities, particularly in Volusia County, were still dealing with flooding and beach erosion, which has put some buildings along the coast “in jeopardy,” DeSantis said.
Sunken homes, broken piers and a rocket at risk
Though South Florida was largely spared, its northern coastal neighbors weren’t as fortunate. Multiple homes crumbled into the ocean in Daytona Beach Shores in Volusia County, victims of a one-two punch of erosion from September’s Hurricane Ian and Nicole’s harsh storm surge.