People along Florida’s east coast brace for a rare hurricane in November Tropical Storm Nicole continued to fortify near the Bahamas.
Nicole transitioned from a subtropical storm to a tropical storm a day after forming in the Atlantic on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
After sweeping past or over islands in the Bahamas, forecasters said it would likely strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s southeast coast late Wednesday or early Thursday.
“(People) have time to prepare Tuesday and Wednesday before the worst conditions arrive Wednesday, late afternoon and Wednesday evening,” AccuWeather forecasting director Dan DePodwin said.
Experts predict Nicole could trigger storm surges of up to 1.5 meters if it drenches Florida’s coastline in heavy rainfall.
Widespread coastal flooding, tropical storm winds and heavy rain will begin in eastern Florida from Tuesday to Wednesday, with effects extending northwest as far as the eastern Panhandle through Thursday, according to WeatherTiger meteorologist Ryan Truchelut.
If it hits like a hurricane, as predicted, it would be the last recorded off Florida’s east coast, according to hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, the hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.
Nicole is an extremely rare storm: Only one hurricane on record made landfall in the continental US after Nov. 4. That was Hurricane Kate on Nov. 21, 1985, which struck with a Category 2 intensity near Mexico Beach, Florida, Klotzbach said.
Here’s what you need to know about Nicole’s latest moves and prediction:
Where is Nicole located?
On Tuesday afternoon, the center of Tropical Storm Nicole was located about 310 miles northeast of the northwestern Bahamas and about 420 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm’s west-southwest movement was expected to continue through Wednesday before shifting more to the west-northwest on Wednesday night, the Hurricane Center said.
Nicole’s eye would approach the northwestern Bahamas Tuesday and Tuesday evenings and move near or over the islands on Wednesday before approaching Florida’s east coast.
What is Nicole’s wind speed?
Tropical Storm Nicole’s maximum sustained winds were about 60 mph on Tuesday with higher gusts, according to the NHC.
In the past two days, Florida’s east coast had already seen wind gusts linked to Nicole from 25 to 35 mph, DePodwin said, adding that the gusts will continue through early Thursday.
“Most of the entire Florida peninsula could experience gusts of 40 to 60 mph as of Tuesday, and that will spread across the entire peninsula later Wednesday and Wednesday evenings,” DePodwin said.
Tropical storm winds extend outward as far as 380 miles from the center of the storm, the National Hurricane Center advised on Tuesday afternoon.
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What is the prediction for Nicole?
A hurricane warning was in effect Tuesday for parts of south Florida and islands in the northwestern Bahamas, according to the NHC, which Nicole described as a “major tropical cyclone.”
The storm was expected to reach hurricane or near-hurricane strength in the next 36 to 48 hours.
Aside from a few showers on Tuesday, the effects on Nicole’s East Florida were “pretty calm” as the storm stayed well offshore, according to DePodwin.
Tropical rain showers were expected to pour over the state from Tuesday evening through Wednesday, bringing 2 to 4 inches of rain across much of the peninsula, he added.
“There could be an area of 4 to 8 inches of rain stretching across the eastern half of Florida beyond the Space Coast and north of Cape Canaveral,” DePodwin said.
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When will Nicole hit Florida?
Nicole is is expected to make landfall over Florida’s east coast between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral late Wednesday night through early Thursday, AccuWeather said.
Joel Cline, the tropical program coordinator for the National Weather Service, advised residents not to focus on Nicole’s exact track, as it is expected to be a major storm with widespread impact.
“The specific location of the storm that is essentially still forming, as opposed to a giant hurricane that is well formed and has an eye, is very different,” Cline said.
Nicole could reach Florida’s east coast with storm surge of 3 to 5 feet and up to 6 inches of rain, according to Cline.
“These things don’t have to be exactly over the top of you to make it the worst night of the year for you,” he said.
Schools will be closed in multiple Florida counties as the storm approaches. Some announced closures through Friday, already a day off due to the Veteran’s Day holiday. Other districts have said they would cancel classes on Thursday.
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What other states could face consequences?
Nicole could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to Georgia through the Carolinas, Virginia and parts of the Northeast, according to DePodwin.
Mountainous parts of North Carolina and Virginia could experience flooding Thursday evening and early Friday from Nicole’s heavy rainfall, DePodwin said.
AccuWeather forecasters expected a few inches of rain in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and New York on Friday night.
“We don’t expect a wind threat in those areas, but definitely heavy rain,” DePodwin said.
Contributions: The Associated Press