Hurricane Nicole strikes Florida, delays Artemis

Nicole: Image of white clouds swirling over map of Florida and SE US.
Hurricane Nicole – after it turned back into Tropical Storm Nicole – around 9 a.m. EST on November 10, 2022. At this point, Nicole covered much of Florida, with bands into states to the north. Image via National Hurricane Center.

After strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday evening, November 9, 2022, Hurricane Nicole made landfall at Vero Beach, Florida around 3 a.m. local time on November 10. It marked the latest in a year that a hurricane had struck Florida’s east coast. The storm – whose death toll rose to five on Thursday – dropped back to tropical storm status after landfall. But the landfall took place just south of Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the mighty Artemis 1 moon rocket stood poised on the launch pad. Now NASA has pushed back the Artemis launch yet again.

Nicole and Artemis

NASA’s Artemis mission can’t catch a break. The mission – a first step in our human return to the moon – was taken off the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in September to shelter as Hurricane Ian menaced Florida. It had just returned to the launch pad November 4, for a planned November 14, 2022, launch. But then Hurricane Nicole showed up. Not surprisingly, NASA delayed the Artemis launch again, to November 16.

As Nicole approached, it was already too late to return Artemis to shelter in the Vehicle Assembly Building. So the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its attached Orion moon capsule rode out the storm on the pad.

As Hurricane Nicole lashed Florida, it brought hurricane-force winds to the cape where Artemis is on the launch pad. NASA is now assessing what, if any, damage occurred to Artemis.

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Map of Florida, showing site of Cape Canaveral.
Cape Canaveral is near the center of Florida’s Atlantic coast. It lies east of Merritt Island, the site of Kennedy Space Center, where the Artemis 1 mission now sits on the launch pad waiting to ride out Tropical Storm Nicole. Image via Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Commons.

Nicole’s impacts on land

Beach erosion appears to be one of the worst results of Nicole so far. Daytona Beach, north of Cape Canaveral, was hit particularly hard.

But the whole state is feeling the impact, from strong winds to heavy rain to power outages to canceled flights.

And here’s Nicole’s future track, for those who live in the southeastern United States:

Unusual year for Atlantic storms

As NASA now knows well, it’s been an odd year for Atlantic hurricanes. The normal hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 through November 30. After a lull in August, the hurricane season came roaring back. The Atlantic basin has had three named tropical systems just since Halloween: Lisa, Martin and now Nicole. Nicole was a category 1 hurricane. So it wasn’t as strong as Ian. But it’s a huge system, so its impact will be felt across a large portion of Florida.

Hurricane Nicole set a record as the hurricane latest in the year to make landfall on Florida’s east coast. The previous record holder was from November 4, 1935. This hurricane had the nickname of the Yankee hurricane because it curved down from the north to hit Florida.

See a satellite loop view of Nicole churning over land here.

Nicole started as a subtropical storm

Nicole began not as a tropical system but a subtropical system. Subtropical storms start with colder air at their core. The winds rise above 39 miles per hour (63 kph), but the wind field is generally not symmetrical. Nicole organized into a tropical storm on the morning of November 8.

Bottom line: Hurricane Nicole dropped to tropical storm status after its landfall in Florida south of Cape Canaveral. Artemis 1’s launch has been delayed yet again because of this storm.

November 10, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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