Subtropical Storm Nicole threatens wind and storm surges in Florida

Satellite image showing Subtropical Storm Nicole swirling east of Florida. Image: CIRA/RAMMB

Subtropical Storm Nicole, currently circling about 435 miles east of the Bahamas, is expected to intensify and hit Florida at or near hurricane intensity by midweek.

Why is this important: The storm’s intensity can be deceiving, as its large size is likely to make it a high-impact event with damaging coastal flooding, dangerous winds and heavy rain over a wide area.

Driving the news: The center of Subtropical Storm Nicole was located about 435 miles east of the northwest Bahamas at 4 p.m. ET. It was moving northwest at 9 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

  • Subtropical storms are hybrid systems with characteristics of both tropical and non-tropical storms. Above all, they tend to have a large wind field, which will come into play with the impacts of the storm in Florida.
  • The storm is expected to slowly intensify and develop into a tropical storm over the next two days. Eventually, Nicole is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane shortly before making landfall on Florida’s east coast somewhere near West Palm Beach between Wednesday and Thursday.

Yes, but: The landfall location is less important in the case of this storm, as its winds will reach all the way to the Georgian coast, causing high surf, beach erosion, flooding from storm surges, damaging winds and heavy rains.

  • If Nicole lands as a hurricane, it would be the last such storm to hit Florida, according to Michael Lowry, hurricane specialist and storm surge expert with WPLG-TV in Miami.

Enlarge: Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday a state of emergency in 34 counties “with great caution” to allow residents to prepare the necessary resources in case the subtropical storm gains strength.

  • “While this storm does not, at this time, appear to be getting much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and listen to announcements from local emergency management officials,” DeSantis said in a statement.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the east coast of Florida from the Volusia County line with Brevard County to Hallandale Beach and for Lake Okeechobee.

  • A storm surge watch is in effect from the east coast of Georgia south to Hallandale Beach, Florida.

  • The NHC said hurricane conditions are possible from southeast to east-central Florida starting Wednesday, while tropical storm conditions can be expected starting Wednesday over much of Florida. and Georgia.
  • “Dangerous storm surge is possible in parts of the northwest Bahamas, much of the east coast of Florida and parts of the Georgian coast,” the NHC said in a discussion of the forecast. “The storm surge will be accompanied by significant and destructive waves.”

Between the lines: NHC forecasters advise against focusing on Nicole’s track, saying the storm “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 southeastern US

  • Much of Florida, particularly areas along the east coast, will also be at risk of urban and riverine flooding from the storm, as it moves slowly across the state and then turns north towards the southeast coast.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a statement from Ron DeSantis.

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