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Hurricane Nicole hits US east coast after storm surge warnings and evacuation orders

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Hurricane Nicole has hit the east coast of Florida after a state of emergency was declared in 45 counties and officials warned of a dangerous storm surge.

Heavy rain and sustained winds of 70mph (112kmph) were recorded as it made landfall at 3am (8am UK time).

Nicole was classed as a hurricane as it approached Florida, but the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) classed it as a tropical storm as it hit the coast.

The storm came ashore at Vero Beach, about halfway between Miami and Orlando, and was moving west-northwest at 14mph.

It comes just six weeks after Hurricane Ian killed more than 140 people and caused $60bn (£52bn) of damage. The latest storm is weaker but is still a significant danger.

Mandatory evacuation orders are in place in some areas and the sheriff of Volusia County – home to Daytona Beach – warned some buildings damaged in the last storm were in “imminent danger of collapsing”.

“This is the last window of opportunity to secure your families and to secure your properties and possibly save some lives,” Mike Chitwood said earlier in an online video.

The warned of a “dangerous storm surge” amid fears waves whipped up by the wind will wash over beaches and flood low-lying inland areas.

Tornadoes are also possible, forecasters said.

Orlando airport stopped operating at 4pm on Wednesday, while 15 emergency shelters have been opened and 600 National Guard personnel are on standby.

Some 1,600 utility workers are also prepared to restore electricity.

“Please make a plan,” Governor Ron DeSantis told a news conference on Wednesday. “This is likely to be a storm making landfall and will affect huge parts of Florida.”

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home is in one of the evacuation zones but it’s not known whether the former president is there.

Daniel Brown, from the NHC, said the storm would affect a large swathe of the state.

“Because the system is so large, really almost the entire east coast of Florida except the extreme south-eastern part and the Keys is going to receive tropical storm force winds,” he said.

The storm already caused extensive flooding across much of the Bahamas, including Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Andros and the Abacos.

People in Jensen Beach brave rain and heavy wind as the hurricane approaches. Pic: AP
Image:
People in Jensen Beach braved rain and heavy wind as the storm approached. Pic: AP

The country’s meteorology agency reported a storm surge of about 1.2m (4ft) north of Treasure Cay on Abaco.

More than 860 people were in more than two dozen shelters, officials said, while power and water outages were also reported in the archipelago’s northwest.

The storm is expected to move across Florida into southern Georgia on Thursday and across the Carolinas on Friday.

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