Nicole weakens to a tropical storm after making landfall along Florida's east coast

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nicole quickly weakened to a tropical storm after making landfall along the east coast of Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, and is now battering the state with strong winds and heavy rain.

The storm was the first hurricane to make landfall in the US this late in the season in 40 years. It’s the third time on record a hurricane has struck Florida in November.

But about an hour after the hurricane made landfall on North Hutchinson Island, it weakened to a tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and some watches and warnings were downgraded or discontinued. The Tampa Bay area remains under a tropical storm warning at this time.

At 4 a.m. ET, Nicole was centered about 25 miles northwest of Vero Beach and 60 miles southeast of Orlando. It was moving west-northwest at 14 mph, and had tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 450 miles from its center.

The storm is forecast to weaken further as it moves across central and northern Florida into Georgia on Thursday, then across the Carolinas Friday. It will likely be a post-tropical cyclone by Friday afternoon, the NHC said.

“Do not focus on the exact track of Nicole since it’s expected to be a large storm with hazards extending well to the north of the center, outside of the forecast cone,” the center said. “These hazards are likely to affect much of the Florida peninsula and portions of the southeast United States.”

Florida should see 3 to 5 inches of rain with some areas seeing isolated amounts of 8 inches.

The southeastern US, southern and central Appalachians, western Mid-Atlantic, and eastern portions of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio could see 2 to 4 inches of rain and the northern Mid-Atlantic and parts of New York could see 1 to 4 inches.

Highlands, Polk and Citrus counties will likely see 3 to 6 inches of rain. The rest of the Tampa Bay area could see 1 to 3 inches or slightly higher amounts.

The NHC warned flash and urban flooding and a few tornadoes are possible.

“Flooding is not a huge concern with Nicole [in Tampa Bay] because the ground has had time to dry out since the flooding seen with Hurricane Ian. River levels are all back to normal and any rain that does fall, will first soak into the ground before moving toward the rivers. The Tampa Bay area will also see far less rain than Hurricane Ian brought,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Amanda Holly.

The area should see winds with speeds of 20 to 40 mph, but wind gusts of up to 50 mph are also possible.

Swells generated by the storm — which can cause life-threatening surf and rip conditions — will likely affect the northwestern Bahamas, the east coast of Florida, and much of the southeastern United States coast over the next few days.

Watches and Warnings

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

  • Boca Raton Florida to South Santee River South Carolina
  • North of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass Florida
  • Lake Okeechobee

A storm surge warning was in effect for:

  • Jupiter Inlet Florida to Altamaha Sound Georgia
  • Mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown Florida
  • Anclote River Florida to Ochlockonee River Florida

A storm surge watch is in effect for:

  • Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass Florida
  • Altamaha Sound Georgia to South Santee River South Carolina

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