Nicole was downgraded to a tropical depression as it made its way through Georgia early Friday, leaving behind some damage and the possibility of flooding in the Tampa Bay area.
Nicole was on its way to the western Carolinas on Friday morning with wind speeds of about 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters are expecting Nicole to become a post-tropical cyclone later on Friday and then dissipate overnight as it merges with a frontal system over the eastern U.S.
“As we say goodbye to Nicole we are still going to see some lingering effects,” Brian McClure, a meteorologist at Spectrum Bay News 9, said. “We’re going to have still some lingering clouds, still obviously kind of breezy out there.”
A coastal flood warning was 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 high rip current risk will be in effect until the afternoon.
The Weather Service warned of water on low-lying roads and property.
Additionally a flood warning is in effect for Little Manatee River in Wimauma. The National Weather Service expects to see some minor flooding there around Saturday afternoon.
In the Tampa Bay area, much of Thursday was spent in a tropical storm warning. Wind gusts reached as high as 68 mph, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.
Across the area rain totals ranged from around two to four inches. According to Spectrum, Davenport had about 4.95 inches of rain in Polk County. Zephyrhills had about 4.85 inches.
McClure 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.
A cold front will pull the last of Nicole to the northeast, and will bring some cooler weather to Tampa Bay over the weekend into Monday, McClure said.
Sunday will be the coolest, when the high will be 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.
McClure said to expect a few scattered showers as the last bits of Nicole leave our area on Friday into Saturday morning.
Across Florida, about 34,000 customers remained without power on Friday morning, including about 1,300 in the Tampa Bay area. Duke Energy reported about 16,000 customers were without power across the state, including about 1,300 in Pinellas County as of 8 a.m. Tampa Electric Co. reported about 50 customers didn’t have power in the Tampa Bay area Friday morning. And FPL, which handles power in much of South Florida and on the state’s east coast, reported about 18,000 customers were without power on Friday morning.
Nicole had spent Thursday cutting across central Florida after making landfall as a hurricane early that morning near Vero Beach. The brunt of the damage was along the East Coast well north of there in the Daytona Beach area. The storm made it to the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday evening before turning north.
The storm caused at least two deaths in Orlando and sent homes along Florida’s coast toppling into the Atlantic Ocean and damaged many others, including hotels and a row of high-rise condominiums. It was another devastating blow just weeks after Hurricane Ian hit the state.
Officials in Volusia County, northeast of Orlando, said Thursday evening that building inspectors had declared 24 hotels and condos in Daytona Beach Shores and New Smyrna Beach to be unsafe and ordered their evacuations. At least 25 single-family homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea had been declared structurally unsafe by building inspectors and also were evacuated, county officials said.
"Structural damage along our coastline is unprecedented. We’ve never experienced anything like this before,” County Manager George Recktenwald said during a news conference earlier, noting that it was not known when evacuated residents can safely return home.
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 melts due to climate change, said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer.
It adds up to higher coastal flooding, flowing deeper inland, and what used to be once-in-a-century events that will happen almost yearly 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.’’