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After reaching Florida's east coast, Nicole weakens to a tropical storm

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hurricane Nicole made landfall early this morning south of Vero Beach, Fla. As the winds slowed down, it's been downgraded to a tropical storm but still brings a lot of force to Florida and most likely to Georgia and the Carolinas after that. NPR's Greg Allen is in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Hey there, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was it like as the storm approached?

ALLEN: Well, you know, I was out yesterday long before the hurricane hit, and roads were already flooding here. And I went out to the beach on Hutchison Island. You could see significant beach damage already. Even this is, you know, a day before the storm hit. Out there, there - I've been in many other hurricanes, but never seen a surf like this. The waves were so high and so turbulent. It was actually just scary to be on the beach. But then when the storm came ashore early this morning, it came ashore as a Category 1 storm. So the first concerns really have to be the high winds. And authorities here say that homes throughout this part of Florida, especially newer ones, should be able to withstand winds - 75-mile-per-hour winds with little damage. So they're not too concerned about structural issues.

I mean, the bigger issues would be people in mobile homes and mobile homes that aren't well maintained. Right now, it's all about power outages. Winds that powerful will take down trees and limbs. And we have some significant power outages here already on the Atlantic Coast. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talked about this at a briefing yesterday. He was a little bit hoarse after his victory speech following his reelection on Tuesday.

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RON DESANTIS: Floridians in the path of this storm should expect, you know, to see power outages when you're having these gusty conditions. There'll be debris. You know, that will affect power lines and the transmission lines. And so just be prepared for that.

ALLEN: DeSantis and other officials have been warning people now to be careful about using emergency generators if they need them because they don't have power.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

ALLEN: A lot of people have died from improper use of generators after some recent storms, and that's something to be concerned about.

INSKEEP: How wide a swath is this storm cutting?

ALLEN: Well, you know, as it approached, it was amazing when you looked at it. It covered most of Florida and all the way up into the Carolinas, just how large it was. It started to organize some. But right now, it's not just Florida that's going to get the impact. The National Hurricane Center says hundreds of miles of the Atlantic Coast will see storm surge as far north as South Carolina. And making things worse, the storm surge, which is as high as four or five feet, is coming during the full moon period when tides are higher than usual. Here's Don Donaldson, the county administrator in Florida's Martin County, near where the hurricane made landfall.

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DON DONALDSON: The highest tides of the year, supplemented by this enormous wind field, pushing water on the coast and an oncoming potential hurricane, are going to add more water to it. And so if you're in a low-lying area, it is not going to get better.

ALLEN: And, you know, in a community just south of Daytona Beach, the high surf and severe beach erosion led one building, a public restroom, to collapse yesterday. Police then ordered the evacuation of several beachfront condominium buildings out of concern for their stability. So authorities will be out today assessing the damage to beaches and nearby structures.

INSKEEP: So talk us through the next few days.

ALLEN: Well, you know, right now, since it's made landfall, it's weakening. It's going to cross the peninsula, and it's going to turn north. The concern now really is flooding, both from the storm surge and rain. Nicole could drop as much as eight inches of rain in some areas. It is moving quickly, which is a good thing, but it still will cause some rivers to crest and bring the threat of flooding days after the storm's passed. This really is especially a worry in central and northwest Florida, which saw impacts from Hurricane Ian just over a month ago. They got flooding in that, and they may see it again. And then as the storm moves north over Georgia and the Carolinas, Virginia, they'll have to be watching for possibility of rain and flooding.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen is in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Greg, thanks, always appreciate your reporting.

ALLEN: You're welcome, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.