After barreling through Florida, the tattered remains of Nicole drenched a huge swath of the continent stretching from Georgia to Canada on Friday as the historically late tropical system entered its final stages of life.
Nicole had worked its way into Georgia by early Friday morning and swept through the eastern United States throughout the day. Wind speeds, which had reached 75 mph when Nicole crashed ashore on the east coast of Florida as a hurricane early Thursday morning and gusted as high as 68 mph in the Tampa Bay area, were at 30 mph late Friday afternoon.
The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression on Friday morning and then to a post-tropical cyclone on Friday afternoon, but it still prompted tornado warnings and predictions of up to 8 inches of rain in some areas. Forecasters expected Nicole to dissipate overnight Friday as it merged with a frontal system over the eastern U.S.
In the Tampa Bay area, scattered and at times heavy rain fell on Friday and forecasters warned that minor river flooding still could occur over the weekend. But the weekend is forecast to be largely dry and Sunday delightfully cool as Floridians hope they have finally seen the last of a hurricane season that started off slow but ended with the devastating Ian and with Nicole, a rare November storm.
A coastal flood warning had been in effect until 7 a.m. Friday in the coastal areas of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, according to the National Weather Service. A rip current warning was issued. No major flooding incidents were reported.
Additionally, a flood warning was in effect for the Little Manatee River in Wimauma. Forecasters had originally anticipated the river could reach 11 feet, which is the base level for a minor flood state. However, the river will likely rise to about only 10 feet Saturday afternoon, according to observations Friday.
Brian McClure, a Spectrum Bay News meteorologist, said onshore winds will cause tide levels to be a bit higher than normal Friday night through at least Saturday morning.
“Don’t be surprised if now all the sudden we go from really low water levels to, you look in your backyard if you live right by the beach, and go ‘oh that water is up a foot or two,’” McClure said.
McClure said scattered showers associated with Nicole also could last into Saturday morning.
A cold front that will pull the last of Nicole to the northeast will bring some cooler weather to Tampa Bay over the weekend and into Monday, McClure said.
Sunday will be the coolest, when the high will be around 76 degrees, according to Bay News 9. Temperatures are expected to drop to around 59 degrees Sunday night, and some areas to the north of Tampa Bay could dip into the 40s.
For storm-weary Floridians, Nicole was only the first November hurricane to hit their shores since 1985 and only the third since record-keeping began in 1853.
Across Florida, about 9,000 customers remained without power as of late Friday afternoon. Duke Energy reported about 2,000 customers were without power across the state, including about 150 in Pinellas County as of 4:15 p.m. Florida Power & Light (FP&L), which handles power in much of South Florida and on the state’s east coast, reported about 7,000 customers were without power on late Friday afternoon. The number of customers without power had been at more than 300,000 at one point Thursday, but 17,000 linemen were put in position to respond, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
The storm results in at least three deaths in Florida. A man and a woman were killed by electrocution when they touched downed power lines in the Orlando area and a man died as waves battered his yacht against a dock in Cocoa, officials said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people on a hard-hit stretch of Florida’s east coast wondered when, or if, they could return to their homes.
As waves washed over pieces of lumber and concrete blocks that once were part of homes at Wilbur-by-the-Sea, workers tried to stabilize remaining sections of land with rocks and dirt. It was too late for some, though: The front of one house lay on the sand, where it was sheared away from the rest of the structure.
Parts of otherwise intact buildings hung over cliffs of sand created by pounding waves that covered the normally wide beach. Dozens of hotel and condominium towers as tall as 22 stories were declared uninhabitable in Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach after seawater undermined their foundations. Just six weeks ago, Hurricane Ian caused an initial round of damage that contributed to problems from Nicole.
Retired health care worker Cindy Tyler, who lived in a seven-story condominium tower that was closed because of the storm, had a hard time coping with the idea of never being able to return to her building.
“I think right now I’m just in a state of hanging in there,” said Tyler, who was forced to evacuate with her husband and a few belongings. “I’m not believing I’m not going to be able to get back into my place. I’m trying to be very hopeful and very optimistic.”
Restoring Daytona Beach — famous for its drivable beach — and surrounding beaches likely will require a major, multimillion-dollar sand renourishment project and improved sea walls to protect property, said Stephen Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University.
“It was known worldwide for driving on the beach,” said Leatherman, known as “Dr. Beach” for his annual ranking of U.S. beaches. “They don’t even have a beach to think about right now.”
Although Nicole’s winds did minimal damage, its storm surge was more destructive than it might have been in the past because seas are rising as the planet’s ice packs melt due to climate change, said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer.
It adds up to higher coastal flooding, and what used to be once-in-a-century events now could happen almost annually in some places, he said.
”It is definitely part of a picture that is happening,” Oppenheimer said. “It’s going to happen elsewhere. It’s going to happen all across the world.’’
Material from the Associated Press contributed supplements this report.
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2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
FORECAST: The ‘cone of uncertainty’ can be confusing. Here’s how to read it.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SHELTER: What to bring — and not bring — plus information on pets, keeping it civil and more.
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
PREPARING FOR A HURRICANE: Make a plan, listen to experts, and know there’s help available if you need it.
DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits
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Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change
INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.