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Even though the center of Tropical Storm Nicole moved over the Lakeland area around 8 a.m. today, the impacts of the storm appeared minimal, with far heavier rain to the west, particularly along the Gulf coast.
“In general, we fared very well,” said Lakeland Electric spokeswoman Cathryn Lacy. “We have 240 outages as of 9:45. We expect that to fluctuate slightly throughout the day as lingering squalls come through the area.”
Lakeland Electric crews rolled out before 10 a.m. to restore power as sustained winds fell below 40 mph. Most of the outages were caused by downed wires. “At this time we have no reports of broken poles or more severe damage,” Lacy said.
Out-of-state crews that were called in by Lakeland Electric to help with power recovery were released to help areas that were hit harder, she said.
The number of customers without electricity was down to 32 as of 2:44 p.m., according to Lakeland Electric’s power outage map.
By 5 p.m., all storm-related outages had been restored, she said. In all, an estimated 5,000 customers were without power during some part of the day, she said.
During Hurricane Ian, more than 65,500 Lakeland Electric customers lost power. With an infusion of out-of-state workers, the utility restored power to all customers within six days.
Power outages were more widespread elsewhere in Florida today. At 9 a.m., Duke Energy reported close to 100,000 customers without power, mostly along the East Coast and in eastern Central Florida. Tampa Electric reported around 17,000 customers without power.
Nicole, which became a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday night, made landfall around 3 a.m. today north of Hutchinson Island with winds around 75 mph and moving west-northwest at 14 mph. It was downgraded to a tropical storm after losing strength over land.
The worst winds and rain across central Florida were expected during the morning, Bay News 9 reported. Winds were expected to peak at 50 to 65 mph this morning and should decline in the afternoon.
Around two to four inches of rain is expected. Lakeland experienced 2.1 inches as of 10:20 a.m., Bay News 9 reported via Twitter.
The sprawling storm is spreading tropical-storm-force winds out 375 miles, threatening most of Florida.
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