Hurricane Nicole hit Florida’s east coast after 45 counties declared a state of emergency, with officials warning of a dangerous storm surge.
Heavy rain and sustained winds of 70mph (112km/h) were recorded when it made landfall at 3am (8am UK time).
Nicole was classified as a hurricane as it approached Florida, but the National Hurricane Center (NHC) classified it as a tropical storm as it hit the coast.
The storm made landfall in Vero Beach, between Miami and Orlando, and was moving west-northwestward at 14 mph.
just six weeks later Hurricane Ian Killed more than 140 people and caused $60bn (£52bn) in damage. The latest storm is weaker, but still a significant hazard.
Mandatory evacuation orders were imposed in some areas, and sheriffs in Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, warned that some buildings damaged in the last storm were “in imminent danger of collapse.”
“This is the last window of opportunity to protect your family, protect your property and possibly save some lives,” Mike Chitwood said earlier in an online video.
A “dangerous storm surge” was warned of a “dangerous storm surge” amid fears that wind-driven waves could wash beaches and flood low-lying inland areas.
A tornado is also a possibility, forecasters said.
The Orlando airport ceased operations at 4 p.m. Wednesday, while 15 emergency shelters were opened and 600 National Guard personnel were on standby.
About 1,600 utility workers are also preparing to restore power.
“Please have a plan,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday. “This is likely to be a landfall of a storm that will affect much of Florida.”
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is in one of the evacuation zones, but it’s not known if the former president was there.
Daniel Brown from the NHC said the storm will affect much of the state.
“Because the system is so large, nearly the entire east coast of Florida, except for the extreme southeast and Keith, will experience tropical storm strong winds,” he said.
The storm has caused widespread flooding across much of the Bahamas, including Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Andros and Abacos.
The country’s meteorological agency reported a storm surge of about 1.2m (4ft) north of Abacobao Reef.
Officials said more than 860 people were in two dozen shelters, while power and water outages were also reported in the northwest of the archipelago.
The storm is expected to cross Florida into southern Georgia on Thursday and the Carolinas on Friday.