Just weeks before the end of the 2022 hurricane season, South Florida could feel the effects of potential Hurricane Nicole, and experts say the threat to the region is growing.
Governor Ron DeSantis released a emergency state in 34 Florida counties including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach on Monday out of caution as Nicole, a subtropical storm, is expected to strengthen and potentially make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane by mid-week .
Reports of coastal flooding and hurricanes, tropical storms and storm surges increased along Florida’s east coast Monday morning, and officials are urging Floridians prepare now and stay alert.
“We are technically still in hurricane season until the end of this month,” he said. “So don’t let your guard down just because it’s November. It’s rare that we get them at this time of year, but we could still get them,” said Barry Baxter, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Miami.
[ MAP: Here’s the updated forecast track of potential Tropical Storm Nicole ]
Forecasters say Nicole is “a big storm” expected to move over or near the Bahamas Tuesday through Wednesday and approach Florida’s east coast Wednesday evening. The latest estimates indicate that its maximum sustained winds this week could reach 75 mph, just 1 mph above the minimum threshold for a Category 1 hurricane.
“It’s not out of the question that Nicole could reach hurricane strength, especially given the warm waters near the Bahamas,” experts said Monday.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, Nicole had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving northwest at 9 mph about 435 miles east-northeast of the northwest Bahamas. It is expected to turn northwest on Monday, then Nicole’s center will approach the northwest Bahamas on Tuesday before approaching the east coast of Florida on Wednesday evening.
The storm will strengthen Tuesday night and Wednesday and be at or near hurricane strength Wednesday or Wednesday night, the hurricane center’s latest advisory said.
“Do not focus on Nicole’s exact track as it is expected to be a large storm with hazards extending well north of the center and out of the cone, and affecting much of the Florida peninsula and parts of the southeastern United States,” the forecasters said.
“I urge all Floridians to be prepared and listen to announcements from local emergency management officials,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to monitor the track and strength of this storm as it heads into Florida.”
Florida Division of Emergency Management officials advise stocking up on packaged and canned non-perishable food and beverages, one gallon of water per person per day, non-electric can openers, paper and plastic utensils, pet food and supplies, gasoline, first aid supplies, medicine, cell phone chargers, batteries, flashlights and cash and to secure important documents.
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The National Weather Service Miami said in a briefing Monday that “overall, the threat is increasing for South Florida” with potentially deadly storm surges, damaging winds, heavy rain and a few tornadoes on the horizon. .
The east coast of Florida from the Volusia/Brevard county line to Hallandale Beach, Lake Okeechobee and the northwest Bahamas is under hurricane watch. The Bahamas issued a hurricane warning Monday afternoon for the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini and Grand Bahama Island.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Bahamian islands of Andros Island, New Providence and Eleuthera.
A tropical storm watch is in effect south of Hallandale Beach north of Ocean Reef and from the Volusia/Brevard county line north to Altamaha Sound in Georgia. A storm surge watch is also in effect from Georgia’s Altamaha Strait at the mouth of the St. Johns River to East Palatka and Hallandale Beach.
The Weather Channel expects Nicole’s center to make landfall on Florida’s east coast Wednesday evening or early Thursday, although “the worst of Nicole’s Southeast Coast impacts could come Tuesday evening or Wednesday and could last in some areas until the second half of the week.”
Given these forecasts, it is likely that voters in South Florida will start to feel the effects on election day, Tuesday, as the system lifts moisture from the Caribbean Sea. Winds between 30 and 35 mph could blow on Florida’s east coast as early as Tuesday evening, according to the weather service. Hurricane-force winds could reach Palm Beach County and Broward County as early as Wednesday.
[ STAY UPDATED with the latest forecast for tropical weather at SunSentinel.com/hurricane ]
Palm Beach County and Broward County both have a 60% to 70% chance of sustained tropical storm-force winds over the next five days, according to the weather service, while Miami-Dade County has between 30% and 50%.
AccuWeather, a private forecast service, estimates Florida could see wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph, with stronger gusts closer to the center of the storm.
“There is an increasing risk of coastal flooding, tropical storm-force winds, heavy rains, rough waves and beach erosion along much of the southeast coast of the United States, from the east coast of Florida and parts of the central and northwestern Bahamas beginning early to mid-this week,” the hurricane center reported.
South Florida will see the storm’s heaviest rainfall between Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service Miami said in a Monday morning briefing. Between four and six inches are expected in parts of Palm Beach County and Broward County, although higher amounts in some areas are possible.
The Weather Service said storm surge levels could peak three to five feet above the ground in northern Palm Beach County, two to four feet in southern Palm Beach County and throughout Broward County and one to two feet in Miami-Dade County.
Robert Garcia, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service Miami, said coastal flood declarations are in place in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade because there have already been reports of minor flooding in coastal areas and that Future high tides will measure in an upward trend before any Nicole effect.
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“It’s not something that seems to be going away this week. We’re already starting to see those higher water levels, and with the storm we expect them to increase,” Garcia said.
Some tornadoes could also be possible in Palm Beach County Wednesday through Thursday morning, according to the weather service.
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Forecasters are also watching for a stormy area of low pressure located 650 east of Bermuda early Monday. Forecasters said it could still become a short-lived tropical depression or tropical storm today before it is hampered by upper winds and a cold front.
The system near Bermuda had a 60% chance of developing within the next two to five days, according to the hurricane center, up from 70% on Sunday.
So far this season, there have been two major hurricanes, meaning Category 3 or higher: Fiona and Ian.
The next named storm to form would be Owen.
NOAA predicted at least four more hurricanes will form before the official end of hurricane season on Nov. 30.