A powerful storm packing heavy rain and damaging winds could hit Florida’s east coast as a Category 1 hurricane this week as many residents are still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Subtropical Storm Nicole is expected to slowly strengthen as it approaches the Florida Peninsula, bringing heavy rain that could lead to dangerous storm surges and strong winds starting Wednesday, according to Jamie Rhome, acting director of the National Hurricane Center.
“We’re probably going to have good parts of the Florida Peninsula affected by these conditions,” Rhome said Monday in video briefing posted online.
More than 20 million people are under tropical storm warnings from Hallandale Beach, Florida, all the way north to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, according to CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford. Also, a tropical storm warning has been issued for Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, he said.
Additionally, more than 5 million people are under storm surge warnings from North Palm Beach northward to Altamaha Sound, including the mouth of the St. Johns to Georgetown, Shackelford added.
As of early Tuesday, more than 8 million people were under a hurricane watch in Florida, Shackelford said. The storm is expected to make landfall Thursday morning above West Palm Beach, he said.
Areas along the state’s west coast from Bonita Beach north to the Ochlockonee River were also under a tropical storm watch Tuesday morning.
Nicole was about 400 miles east-northeast of the northwest Bahamas on Tuesday morning. It is expected to become a tropical storm later on Tuesday.
Nicole is not expected to intensify as quickly as Hurricane Ian did in late September when it killed at least 120 people along its path in Florida and devastated communities still reeling from the devastation.
“We’re not anticipating a major hurricane,” Rhome said. “Again, not Ian’s situation, but a system that could still have an impact.”
Effective in the sense that it is predicted to be a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida by Wednesday night to Thursday morning, said Rhome.
“Florida residents need to be taking this seriously,” Rhome said.
The warning comes as a hurricane watch is currently in effect along Florida’s east coast, from the Volusia/Brevard county line to Hallandale Beach, according to the hurricane center.
The watch also extends from just north of Miami to the Space Coast and includes Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral and Melbourne.
Subtropical Storm Nicole is packing wind speeds of 45 mph, with higher gusts, on Tuesday as it churns toward Florida from the northwest Bahamas, where a hurricane warning is in effect.
“Don’t let the ‘sub’ fool you. #Nicole is a massive storm that will have major impacts along the US southeast coast, not just near the center. Coastal flooding, large waves and rip currents will extend from FL into NC,” the National Weather Service explained.
As many people across Florida head to the polls on Tuesday for midterm Election Day, forecasters are warning them to be prepared.
“Florida can expect scattered showers and storms to begin affecting parts of the state by Tuesday afternoon,” Shackelford said.
“Large and damaging waves will accompany the storm surge. Residents in the warning area should heed advice given by local officials,” the hurricane center said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava he said online that she had been briefed on the storm and had encouraged the residents to prepare.
“Residents and visitors should monitor the forecast and ensure their storm kit is up to date,” Levine Cava said in a social media post. “We are taking all necessary precautions to prepare for possible flooding and power outages.”
Officials do not expect the storm to affect Election Day on Tuesday.
Rhome, the hurricane center’s acting director, said the potential for coastal flooding exists for a large area along the east coast of the Florida Peninsula beginning Wednesday, adding that some of those areas were hit by Hurricane Ian .
The main threats to Florida are heavy rainfall of up to 7 inches, and a storm surge that could rise up to 5 feet along the coast along with strong winds. Those conditions are mainly forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday night.