National Hurricane Center

Nicole Expected to Become Hurricane Before Hitting Florida's East Coast

Nicole is forecast to be at hurricane intensity by Wednesday or Wednesday night while it is moving near or over the northwestern Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said

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Residents along portions of Florida's east coast were preparing for Tropical Storm Nicole, which was expected to strengthen to a category 1 hurricane Wednesday before making landfall, forecasters said.

Nicole had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and was moving west at 13 mph about 135 miles east of West Palm Beach, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton to the Flagler/Volusia County line, while a hurricane watch was issued for the east coast of Florida from Boca Raton to Hallandale Beach along with Lake Okeechobee.

A tropical storm watch that had been in effect for Miami-Dade was cancelled. Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches remained in effect for Broward County. 

Nicole was forecast to be at hurricane intensity by Wednesday night while it was moving near or over the northwestern Bahamas, the hurricane center said. The storm made landfall just before noon Wednesday in Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island.

Forecast tracks showed Nicole approaching the east coast of Florida late Wednesday or early Thursday. Miami-Dade and Broward were out of the storm's "cone of concern" but could still experience strong wind gusts.

At a news conference in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern and and significant power outages could occur, but that 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power, as well as 600 guardsmen and seven search and rescue teams.

“It will affect huge parts of the state of Florida all day,” DeSantis said of the storm’s expected landing.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis provided an update on the state's plan as Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to impact Florida's east coast as a Category 1 hurricane.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet that storm surge from Tropical Storm Nicole had already breached the sea wall along Indian River Drive, which runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. The Martin County Sheriff's office also said seawater had breached part of a road on Hutchinson Island.

Residents in several Florida counties — Flagler, Palm Beach, Martin and Volusia — were ordered to evacuate such barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes. Volusia, home to Daytona Beach, imposed a curfew and warned that intercoastal bridges used by evacuees would close when winds reach 39 mph.

Broward and Miami-Dade County Public Schools closed Wednesday due to the storm with Broward announcing schools would also be closed Thursday. Miami-Dade courts and other closures were announced including Tri-Rail service which will be suspended starting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, transportation authorities said.

NBC 6 anchor Cherney Ahmara has more on how residents and tourists in Broward County are anticipating what impacts could come.

"Our county teams are already getting prepared to respond to any additional surge or rainfall," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. "We urge all of our residents to be vigilant and exercise a high level of caution should our community face inclement weather, rain or flooding or wind."

On Monday, the South Florida Water Management District started lowering the water in canals in preparation.

"While we are encouraged by the current forecast and the latest shift north at this time, we will not be issuing any evacuation orders," Broward County Mayor Michael Udine said. "The Coast Guard has issued an order for bridges in Broward County that began the lockdown position at 10 AM on the north and south borders of Broward County, gradually moving their way to central Broward. Lock downs are expected to occur in the downtown Fort Lauderdale area by 3 PM."

Rain and wind will pick up Wednesday night and Thursday with tropical storm force winds quite possible, especially across Broward and northern Miami-Dade.

Rainfall amounts could hit 3 inches or more across Broward. Storm surge will run about 1-2 feet in Miami-Dade with 2-4 feet possible across the coast of Broward, forecasters said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Hallandale Beach to Boca Raton, the Flagler/Volusia County line to South Santee River, South Carolina and Anclote River to Indian Pass. A tropical storm watch was in effect for south of Hallandale Beach to north of Ocean Reef.

A storm surge warning was in effect for North Palm Beach to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, from the St. Johns River to Georgetown and from Anclote River to the Ochlockonee River. A storm surge watch is in effect from North Palm Beach to Hallandale Beach and Anclote River to Indian Pass.

DeSantis on Monday declared a state of emergency for 34 counties in the potential path of Nicole, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. On Wednesday, DeSantis expanded the order to add 11 additional counties.

“It’s not out of the question for Nicole to reach hurricane strength, especially given how warm the waters are in the vicinity of the Bahamas," the NHC said. “It should be stressed, however, that no matter Nicole’s ultimate intensity, the storm’s large size will likely cause significant wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts over a large portion of the northwestern Bahamas, Florida, and the southeastern coast of the United States during much of the upcoming week."

The system is expected to move to the west and potentially bring coastal flooding, tropical storm force winds and heavy rainfall for areas from South Florida to the border of Georgia and South Carolina starting Wednesday night. As much as eight inches of rain could fall in Florida.

Large parts of Florida are still reeling from destructive Hurricane Ian, which slammed into the southwestern portion of the state in September 28 as a strong Category 4 hurricane and dumped massive amounts of rain, causing flooding across central Florida.

Nicole is the 14th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which has already seen seven hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's updated prediction totals for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season call for 14-20 named storms, one below their prediction released in May.

The total number of hurricanes expected remains unchanged at six to ten, but the number of major hurricanes is now expected to be three to five, instead of the earlier prediction of three to six, NOAA said.

NOAA's averages for the Atlantic hurricane season are 14 named storms and seven hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes is three.

The hurricane season officially ends on November 30.

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