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Nicole makes landfall as rare November hurricane, affecting some Canadian flights to Florida

Tropical Storm Nicole hit Florida as a hurricane Thursday, washing away the remaining protections for a stretch of beachfront properties that lost their seawall during Hurricane Ian only weeks before. In Daytona Beach Shores, surging ocean water threatened the foundations of at least a dozen high-rise condos and houses.

Orlando's busy airport is closed, while Disney World is hoping for a phased opening later Thursday

Tropical storm Nicole rips through Florida

3 months ago
Duration 0:40
Beachfront structures in Florida faced the full force of hurricane Nicole, which has since been weakened into a tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Nicole hit Florida as a hurricane Thursday, washing away the remaining protections for a stretch of beachfront properties that lost their seawall during Hurricane Ian only weeks before. In Daytona Beach Shores, surging ocean water threatened the foundations of at least a dozen high-rise condos and houses.

After making landfall as a hurricane, Nicole remains a sprawling tropical storm, covering nearly the entire weather-weary state of Florida early Thursday while also reaching into Georgia, the Carolinas and Alabama. Damaging winds extended as far as 720 kilometres from the centre in some directions as Nicole turned northward over central Florida Thursday morning.

The rare November hurricane had already led officials to shut down airports and theme parks and order evacuations that included former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club

Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort announced they likely would not open as scheduled Thursday, hoping for a "phased reopening" in the afternoon.

Palm Beach International Airport closed Wednesday morning, and Daytona Beach International Airport said it would suspend operations. Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the U.S., also closed. Farther south, officials said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport experienced some flight delays and cancellations but both planned to remain open.

Some Thursday flights to Orlando, Tampa and Miami departing from Pearson airport near Toronto and Montreal's Trudeau airport were cancelled or delayed.

Airlines in the United States cancelled 1,220 flights early Thursday. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 100 flights each, while United Airlines called off 73 trips, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com.

Daytona Beach evacuations

Authorities in Volusia County ordered evacuations ahead of the storm and and closed bridges as they assessed the damage Thursday.

"Multiple coastal homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea have collapsed and several other properties are at imminent risk," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a social media message. In the Daytona Beach area, all bridges to the beachside have been closed to all but essential personnel and a curfew was put into effect, he said.

Wilbur-by-the-Sea is an unincorporated community on a barrier island with only beachfront homes, not condos or hotels.

Next door in Daytona Beach Shores, Krista Dowling Goodrich, who manages 130 rental homes as director of sales and marketing at Salty Dog Vacations, witnessed the beachfront disappear behind some of the properties as evacuations were underway.

"While we were there the whole backyard just started collapsing into the ocean. It went all the way up to the house," she said.

Waves crash into a beachfront house on Thursday after Hurricane Nicole made landfall on Florida's east coast, in Daytona Beach Shores, Fla. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Officials in Daytona Beach Shores deemed multiple multi-storey coastal residential buildings unsafe, and went door-to-door telling people to grab their possessions and leave.

"These were the tall highrises. So the people who wouldn't leave, they were physically forcing them out because it's not safe," Goodrich said. "I'm concerned for the infrastructure of the area right now because once the seawalls are gone, they're not going to just let people go back in … there will be a lot of people displaced for a while."

Nicole was moving northwest over central Florida at a speed of about 25 kilometres per hour as it packed 100 km/h wind gusts early Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

Nicole is expected to move across central Florida Thursday morning, possibly emerge over the far northeastern Gulf of Mexico in the afternoon, and then move across the Florida Panhandle and Georgia late Thursday and on Friday.

Large swells generated by Nicole will affect the northwestern Bahamas, the east coast of Florida, and much of the southeastern United States coast over the next few days, with potential impacts ahead for Atlantic Canada.

Nicole became a hurricane Wednesday evening as it slammed into Grand Bahama Island, having made landfall around 3 a.m. ET on Great Abaco Island as a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h. 

For storm-weary Floridians, it is only the third November hurricane to hit their shores since record-keeping began in 1853. The previous ones were the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and Hurricane Kate in 1985.

White House signs off on disaster declaration

Mar-a-Lago, Trump's club and home, was in an evacuation zone, built about a quarter-mile inland from the ocean. The main buildings sit on a small rise that is about 4.5 metres above sea level and the property has survived numerous stronger hurricanes since it was built nearly a century ago. The resort's security office hung up Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked whether the club was being evacuated and there was no sign of evacuation by Wednesday afternoon.

There is no penalty for ignoring an evacuation order, but rescue crews will not respond if it puts their members at risk.

Vehicles drive through a flooded street after Hurricane Nicole came ashore, in Fort Pierce, located in St. Lucie County on the east coast of Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Some 215,000 homes and businesses across Florida's Atlantic coast were without power on Thursday morning. Ahead of the storm, Gov. Ron DeSantis said 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power as well as 600 guardsmen and seven search and rescue teams.

Almost two-dozen school districts were closing schools for the storm and 15 shelters had opened along Florida's east coast, the governor said.

Forty-five of Florida's 67 counties were under a state of emergency declaration.

Early Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts to the storm.

Hurricane Ian brought significant storm surge in late September, causing widespread destruction and killing dozens of people.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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