Subtropical Storm Nicole is now expected to become a hurricane over the Bahamas before hitting Florida’s east coast on Wednesday, just well enough after polls close to avoid disrupting voting on Election Day, forecasters said.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini and Grand Bahama Island, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Andros Island, New Providence, and Eleuthera in the northwestern Bahamas, Hallandale Beach, Florida to Altamaha Sound, Georgia and Lake Okeechobee, while a storm surge warning has been issued for North Palm Beach, Florida to Altamaha Sound, Georgia and the stretch from the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown, Florida.
NHC issued a hurricane watch for Hallandale Beach to the Volusia/Brevard County Line, Florida and Lake Okeechobee, while storm surge and tropical storm watches are also in effect. See the latest advisory here.
The hurricane center predicted a particularly wobbly forward movement for Nicole as it approaches Florida before crossing into the northwest Gulf of Mexico. As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, the storm was about 385 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The system is expected to intensify to a tropical storm Tuesday before likely becoming a Category 1 hurricane or near that strength on Wednesday, officials say.
A turn toward the west and west-southwest is forecast Tuesday and Tuesday night, and that motion should continue through Wednesday. A turn toward the northwest and north-northwest is expected Thursday and Thursday night. On the current track, the center of Nicole will approach the northwestern Bahamas Tuesday, move near or over those islands on Wednesday, and approach the east coast of Florida Wednesday night. Nicole’s center is then expected to move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia Thursday and Thursday night.
The track can be deceiving, though, NHC warned.
“Do not focus on the exact track of Nicole since it is expected to be a large storm with hazards extending well to the north of the center, and outside of the cone, and affect much of the Florida peninsula and portions of the southeast U.S.,” its latest advisory said.
Storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels along the immediate coast of the northwestern Bahamas in areas of onshore winds. The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the north of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 34 counties in the potential path of the storm, out of an abundance of caution.
“While this storm does not, at this time, appear that it will become much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and to listen to announcements from local emergency management officials,” DeSantis said in a statement.
“While this storm does not, at this time, appear that it will become much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and to listen to announcements from local emergency management officials,”
Large parts of the state have yet to recover from destructive Hurricane Ian, which slammed into southwestern Florida on Sept. 28 as a strong Category 4 hurricane and dumped massive amounts of rain, causing flooding across central Florida.
A subtropical storm is a non-frontal low-pressure system that has characteristics of both tropical and extratropical cyclones. They tend to have a larger wind field, extending much farther from their centers. Forecasters said the storm could possibly transition into a tropical system as it continues to develop.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.