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Hurricane Nicole makes landfall in Florida, raising concerns about climate change

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Florida today is cleaning up after yet another hurricane. Hurricane Nicole hit the state near Vero Beach early this morning with 75-mile-per-hour winds. After coming ashore, it was downgraded to a tropical storm. NPR's Greg Allen reports that since records have been kept, this is the latest in the season a hurricane has ever made landfall on Florida's Atlantic coast.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Nicole hit as a Category 1 storm. As hurricanes go, that's on the low end of the scale. Authorities ordered evacuations for people living on barrier islands along much of Florida's Atlantic coast because of the threat of storm surge. As Nicole passed through Florida today, local authorities and Governor Ron DeSantis agreed, it could have been a lot worse.

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RON DESANTIS: You do have downed trees. You have power lines. You have some road washouts, combine winds and storm surge. We've seen beach erosion, especially in areas that had already seen erosion from Hurricane Ian.

ALLEN: From Fort Lauderdale to Daytona Beach, the heavy surf and storm surge damaged piers, washed away dunes and threatened homes and other structures. In Volusia County, authorities evacuated 19 condominium buildings and hotels, also 40 single-family homes. As the beach washed away, at least one home collapsed, and others were in danger of doing so. Volusia County manager, George Recktenwald, said residents won't be able to return until the structures were inspected and declared safe.

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GEORGE RECKTENWALD: The structural damage along our coastline is unprecedented. We've never experienced anything like this before.

ALLEN: Until Nicole developed in the Atlantic this week, many in Florida thought hurricane season was over. The season doesn't officially end until November 30, but Florida rarely sees landfalling hurricanes this late in the year, especially on its Atlantic coast. The last one was in 1935. Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections, says there are a few reasons Nicole form so late. The East Coast had a very warm fall. And high-level winds of the Atlantic, which can limit hurricane formation, weren't as strong as usual.

JEFF MASTERS: And we're in a period of global warming, where the ocean temperatures are warmer than they've ever been, about 1.2 degrees centigrade warmer climate than back in the 1800s.

ALLEN: With warmer ocean temperatures, Master says we've been seeing hurricanes form earlier than past years. And as Nicole has shown, we're likely to see them forming later in the season. Greg Allen, NPR News, Port Saint Lucie, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.