PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB-TV) – Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph early this morning (2 a.m. CST/3 a.m. EST) near Vero Beach, FL. Since then, the storm has weakened back to tropical storm status. As of 6 a.m. CST, it had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving west/northwest at 14 mph.
Tropical Storm Nicole will continue to move northwest, emerging into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico throughout the day before curving northeast through the Big Bend and up through Georgia tomorrow.
The Forgotten Coast will be the first to see the rainfall today, with scattered showers building in from outer rainbands through the morning hours. Central counties of the panhandle will see the rainfall closer to noon throughout the afternoon and early evening hours. Most of the rain will clear to the north around midnight. A few lingering showers are possible early Friday morning as moisture wraps around the tropical low. However, the rain will completely exit by 9 a.m. CST Friday.
Rainfall totals are forecast to be lowest to the west and higher to the east. Walton county to the west will receive one inch of rain or less. Central counties to the west of the Apalachicola River will see 1-2 inches of rain. Areas east of the Apalachicola River to the Big Bend will see 2-3 inches of rain.
Winds are forecast to be sustained at 20-30 mph through the day, gusting up to 40-45 mph where a Wind Advisory is in effect (central Panhandle counties). Winds may gust to 50 mph east of the Apalachicola River where a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect.
Waters will be very rough and dangerous through Friday. There is a Small Craft Advisory in effect as the seas will be 5-7 feet today. Strong winds will also create a dangerous pull in the water along the beaches. It’s safest to stay out of and off of the water until the winds calm, likely later this weekend.
On Friday, a cold front will be approaching northwest Florida from the west. This system will help push away Nicole from our area. It will also bring in another shot of cold air through the weekend. High temperatures will tumble to the 60s on Saturday and possibly upper 50s on Sunday. Sunday morning lows will drop to the 30s inland, near freezing Monday morning.