Nicole brings dangerous storm surge as it nears the Bahamas, with expected landfall in Florida less than 24 hours away
Tropical Storm Nicole is drenching the Bahamas with dangerous storm surge early Wednesday before it slams into Florida’s east coast as a possible Category 1 hurricane, prompting evacuations in areas still recovering from Hurricane Ian.
Nearly four million people along Florida’s east coast are under hurricane warnings as Nicole is poised to make landfall late Wednesday north of West Palm Beach, Florida, as a Category 1 hurricane, blasting the region with torrential rain and damaging winds.
“Nicole is expected to weaken while moving across Florida and the southeastern United States Thursday through Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday morning.
By early Wednesday morning, the east coast of Florida was already experiencing tropical storm conditions. Up to 8 inches of rain, storm surge that could rise to 5 feet along the coast and high winds are expected Wednesday evening and Thursday.
The ominous forecast has led to evacuations orders in some Florida counties still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Ian, which killed at least 120 people in Florida and leveled communities. Public schools in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have closed through at least Wednesday, and Orlando International Airport will suspend operations starting Wednesday afternoon.
In Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, the storm poses a direct threat to both life and property, according to county manager George Recktenwald.
“Our infrastructure, especially along the coastline, is extremely vulnerable because of Hurricane Ian’s impacts,” Recktenwald noted in a statement on the county’s website. “We expect further erosion along the beach, along with flooding in areas that were previously flooded by Ian. Residents need to take this storm seriously.”
Volusia County residents are ordered to evacuate beginning 10 a.m. Wednesday. The order applies to those east of the intracoastal waterway or in flood-prone areas, all campsites and RV parks and all mobile and manufactured homes.
In Palm Beach, the mandate begins at 7 a.m. Wednesday for zones A and B, including barrier islands and low-lying areas, according to a news release from the county.
Meanwhile, some residents of Brevard County are advised to evacuate starting Wednesday at 7 a.m. The recommended evacuation applies to people on the barrier islands, including areas from Kennedy Space Center south beaches and Merritt Island.
People in flood-prone areas, mobile and manufactured home residents, and people with special medical needs who are dependent on electricity should also evacuate, the county said.
“A dangerous storm surge from #Nicole is expected along much of the east coast of FL & portions of coastal GA,” the Storm SurgeUnit at the National Hurricane Center said. “The storm surge will be accompanied by large & damaging waves. Please listen to advice from local officials.”
The hurricane warning in Florida is effect from Boca Raton to the Flagler-Volusia County Line. In the northwestern Bahamas, a hurricane warning remained in effect Wednesday morning.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Florida’s west coast north of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass. Areas from Altamaha Sound, Georgia, to South Santee River in South Carolina remain under tropical storm warning Wednesday morning.
It is rare for a hurricane to strike the US so late in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November. Nicole would be the first hurricane to make landfall in the US in November in nearly 40 years.
As of early Wednesday, Nicole was about 270 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, with sustained winds of 70 mph, just 4 mph shy of becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the hurricane center said.
Areas along the coast of southeast and east-central Florida should brace for hurricane conditions beginning late Wednesday or Wednesday night, the hurricane center said. The Florida Peninsula could also see heavy rainfall Wednesday and Thursday.
“Nicole will approach the northwestern Bahamas overnight, move near or over those islands on Wednesday, and approach the east coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area” Wednesday night or early Thursday, the hurricane center explained.
“Nicole’s center is then expected to move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia Thursday and Thursday night.”
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