Nicole nears hurricane strength as it heads for Florida

Tropical Storm Nicole approached hurricane strength early Wednesday as it tracked toward the Atlantic coast of Florida and the southeastern United States.

Previously a subtropical storm, Nicole upgraded to a tropical storm and was almost guaranteed to become a hurricane overnight, the National Hurricane Center said.

President Joe Biden has approved federal emergency aid for 45 counties, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Broward, Flagler and Seminole.

If Nicole were to become a hurricane, it would be the third in the Atlantic this month, tying the 2001 season for the most Atlantic hurricanes in November, according Phil Klotzbach, atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University.

On Wednesday afternoon, the tropical storm was around 210 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph – just 4 mph from Category 1 hurricane status.

It was moving west at 12 mph, according to the hurricane center.

Flights at several airports were canceled before the storm arrived. Palm Beach International Airport stopped all flights Wednesday morning, as Orlando International Airport said it closed all business operations at 4 p.m. In Daytona Beach, the airport closed at 12:30 p.m. and plans to reopen Friday morning.

Meanwhile, airports in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville remain open but have warned travelers to check with their airline for any flight delays or cancellations.

More than 500 members of the Florida National Guard have been activated to assist with response efforts.

“These forces are actively preparing across the state but will remain flexible to reposition as necessary to ensure a rapid response,” the agency said. “Our forces are ready to conduct a variety of missions to include bridge entry checkpoints, traffic checkpoints, search and rescue, security and the installation of Tiger Dam systems.”

In anticipation of the storm, Walt Disney World Resort theme parks will have a “gradual closingbeginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will remain closed through Thursday morning. Guests staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort should also check out, the park said, noting that it will help people find another accommodation.

Hurricane conditions were expected in the northwest Bahamas Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, and Wednesday evening the same was expected for Florida’s central and southern Atlantic coast, forecasters said.

Its strength was such that an overnight storm surge watch was issued for the other side of Florida, along the Panhandle east of Panama City, from the Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass, they said. .

The hurricane center warned the entire state to prepare for severe weather.

“Do not focus on Nicole’s exact track as it is expected to be a large storm with hazards extending well north of center outside the forecast cone” , he said in a bulletin of “key messages”.

“These risks will likely affect much of the Florida peninsula and parts of the southeastern United States,” he said.

Hurricane warnings were in effect overnight for a wide swath of the state’s east coast — from Boca Raton, north of Miami, to the Flagler County line, north of Daytona Beach — said forecasters.

In an update Wednesday, Flagler County Emergency Management said evacuation orders for barrier islands takes effect at 3:30 p.m.

Other warnings urge residents to prepare and evacuate if necessary as life-threatening conditions including hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or more, storm surge and coastal flooding were on the way.

“Preparations to protect life and property must be completed,” the hurricane center said in a late-night public advisory.

A storm surge warning, which predicts dangerously high ocean waters, wetlands and rivers, was in effect from North Palm Beach, Florida to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, he said.

Forecasters said central and northern Florida could expect 3 to 5 inches of rain, with 8 inches possible.

Storm surge is likely to affect a long stretch of coastline from Florida’s east coast to the southeastern United States, the hurricane center said.

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip conditions,” he said.

Minyvonne Burke contributed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *