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Nicole races across Florida; flooding swamps the First Coast

Lafayette Street near the Maxwell House plant.jpg
Dan Scanlan
/
WJCT News
A pickup plows through deep water on Lafayette Street near the Maxwell House plant

Hurricane Nicole made landfall about 3 a.m. Thursday near Vero Beach and quickly weakened to a tropical storm, but Northeast Florida was in for a day of rain, wind and rising water.

Tropical storm conditions were forecast along Florida's east coast, Georgia and South Carolina as the rare November storm crossed the peninsula and then turned northeast on Friday.

As of Thursday afternoon:

  • A1A in St. Johns County was impassable for 6 miles — from Vilano to Guana — after the road collapsed.
  • The Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine was closed because of flooding and high winds.
  • Memorial Park in Riverside was under water.
  • The National Weather Service issued scattered tornado warnings in Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties.
  • Jacksonville International Airport remained open, but at least 59 flights were canceled.
  • JEA reported power outages affecting about 28,000 customers as of 10 a.m. In addition, at least 3,500 people were without power in St Johns County, 7,600 in Clay County and about a hundred in Nassau County.

Nicole was 95 miles southeast of Tallahassee at 4 p.m., moving northwest at 15 mph with decreased winds of 45 mph. A tropical storm warning remained in effect in Northeast Florida, with Nicole's winds stretching 175 miles from the center.

Dangerous storm surge was expected on both coasts, with large and damaging waves in Northeast Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. The worst was expected during high tide in the late morning.

"The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline," the hurricane center said.

A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet was forecast for the St. Johns river south of the Fuller Warren Bridge and 3 to 5 feet along the coast. Winds of 39 mph, with stronger gusts, were predicted in Jacksonville throughout the day.

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"Damage from Hurricane Nicole is already present, especially along the east coast of Florida," said meteorologist Justin Ballard of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. "This area has been subjugated to onshore flow for several days, leading to many reports of coastal erosion, damage to structures along the coast, and inundation along busy coastal roads.

"Nicole will gradually weaken through Thursday, but the wind field associated with Nicole remains quite large," Ballard wrote.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.