VERO BEACH, Fla. – Hurricane Nicole made landfall along the east coast of Florida early Thursday morning, leaving at least five people dead and millions in damage in its wake.
The National Hurricane Center said the center of Nicole moved onshore Thursday at 3 a.m. Eastern just south of Vero Beach, Florida. Nicole was packing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Shortly after making landfall, Nicole was downgraded to a tropical storm as it began to weaken over the Florida Peninsula. It later weakened to a tropical depression over the southeastern U.S. on Thursday evening.
The Yankee hurricane of 1935 was the last time a hurricane made landfall in November along the east coast of Florida. Hurricane Kate of 1985, which came ashore Nov. 21 along the Florida Panhandle, was the last November hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the U.S.
Homes destroyed by surf; hundreds of thousands in the dark
At least five deaths in Florida have been blamed on Nicole. Officials at the Orange County Sheriff's Office said two people were electrocuted by a downed power line early Thursday in Orlando, Florida. Two others were killed in a car crash on the Florida Turnpike. A fifth person went unconscious while trying to ride out the storm on a yacht in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and later died at a hospital.
In Volusia County, dozens of oceanfront buildings and homes were severely damaged as relentless high surf took advantage of a weakened beach defense from September's Hurricane Ian and washed away significant chunks of the beach.
Officials said 24 condos and hotels, including 10 buildings of at least 10 stories tall, are now unsafe and structurally dangerous, while another 25 homes have either already suffered significant damage or are threatened by the encroaching surf in the Wilbur-By-The-Sea neighborhood along Florida's east coast.
Several sections of the coastal A1A highway were washed out along the hurricane's path.
Major coastal flooding was reported along the east coast of Florida, where a NOAA tide gauge at Port Canaveral, Florida, recorded up to 3.6 feet of inundation above normal high tide on Thursday morning.
Between 2 and 3 feet of inundation above normal high tide was also observed from northeastern Florida to the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, including in Charleston, South Carolina.
Additionally, the St. Johns River in northeastern Florida saw significant flooding Thursday morning when water levels in Astor, Florida, approached records that were established during Hurricane Ian earlier this fall.
More than 300,000 Florida power customers lost electricity at the height of Nicole, but that number had dropped to around 37,000 by Friday morning.
Wind gusts from the hurricane topped 80 mph in some locations along the east coast of Florida.
Kennedy Space Center clocked a wind gust of 86 mph, while Daytona Beach recorded a gust of 84 mph, Cape Canaveral hit 79 mph, Melbourne reached 73 mph and Orlando hit 63 mph. Jacksonville reported a wind gust of 56 mph – its second-highest November gust on record.
FOX Weather's Robert Ray reported live Thursday morning from Daytona Beach, Florida, near where the 84-mph wind gust was reported as the center of Hurricane Nicole crashed ashore.
Nicole made two landfalls in the Bahamas Wednesday
Nicole made its first landfall just before noon Wednesday on Great Abaco Island in the northwestern Bahamas. It was the first November named storm to make landfall in the Bahamas in 15 years, according to the FOX Forecast Center.
The previous was Noel, which made landfall as a tropical storm on Andros Island on Nov. 1, 2007. Prior to that, it was Category 1 Hurricane Michelle, which also made landfall on Andros Island on Nov. 5, 2001.
On Wednesday evening, Nicole intensified into a Category 1 hurricane as it made a second landfall in the northwestern Bahamas around 6 p.m. over Grand Bahama Island, where a wind gust of 61 mph was recorded.
Artemis weathers storm but needs minor repairs
While Kennedy Space Center recorded a gust of 86 mph, wind gauges atop towers near NASA's $4 billion moon rocket clocked gusts over 90 mph, nearing 100 mph, which exceeded the threshold for leaving the rocket on the launch pad.
But a NASA spokesperson says it appears the Artemis rocket weathered the storm with just minor damage "such as loose caulk and tears in weather coverings." Teams are gearing up for the rocket's planned Nov. 16 launch.
Air travel on Earth remained a challenge in the Southeast too. Some airports in the path of Nicole, including Orlando, Melbourne, Palm Beach and Daytona Beach in Florida, closed on Wednesday. Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville remained open.
The storm shut down many of Central Florida's theme parks earlier than usual on Wednesday because of Nicole. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios closed Wednesday afternoon but were reopening later Thursday. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens remained closed until Friday.
Tornadic storm cells move through Virginia
Dozens of Tornado Warnings were issued throughout the mid-Atlantic on Friday as bands of Nicole moved through.
A storm chaser captured video of a possible tornado in central Virginia near Interstate 85.
Early indications are that very few of the storms produced actual tornadoes but National Weather Service offices will make the final determination on how many formed.