Hurricane warning issued in Florida as Nicole tracks toward storm-weary state
A hurricane warning was issued along the central part of Florida's east coast on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Nicole churned across the Atlantic and showed signs of further strengthening as it tracked toward the storm-weary state. AccuWeather meteorologists expect this sprawling storm to take a turn and hit Florida’s east coast — as a hurricane — later this week before it takes a run up the Eastern Seaboard.
On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Nicole's arrival.
The Sunshine State faces long-duration impacts from pounding surf, strong winds and torrential rain, and as a result, AccuWeather forecasters have rated Nicole a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes. This scale takes into account the effects of storm surge, coastal erosion, flooding, wind and economic damage, while the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale accounts for wind intensity only.
Nicole will strengthen into a hurricane prior to making landfall along the central Florida coast early Thursday. Impacts could be severe along Florida’s Atlantic coast and over the Florida Peninsula in general.
A hurricane warning was in effect for a large portion of the Florida east coast and the northwestern Bahamas, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for the northeastern Florida coast as well as part of the Georgia coast.
As of Tuesday midday, Nicole gained a bit of strength since Monday and has transitioned from a subtropical storm to a tropical storm with 50 mph sustained winds. Nicole was spinning 460 miles to the east of West Palm Beach, Florida, and was moving westward at 9 mph.
The combination of Nicole's perpendicular track straight into the Florida Peninsula, a broad area of strong easterly winds from the Atlantic and the astronomical effects of the full moon will hit coastal areas hard from near West Palm Beach to St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach, forecasters warn.
Along much of the Florida Atlantic coast and the Georgia coast, conditions could be more severe with Nicole compared to Ian. Tides will continue to trend above normal through Wednesday and into Thursday. A water level rise of several feet is likely near and well north of where the center of the storm moves inland. A broad zone of where a storm surge of 3-6 feet is forecast from near West Palm Beach to near Savannah, Georgia. From near the Space Coast to Daytona Beach the storm surge can be locally higher than 6 feet.
"In coastal areas, especially from the Space Coast of Florida through the Carolinas, tropical-storm-force wind gusts can occur for 36-48 hours straight," AccuWeather Director of Forecasting Operations Dan DePodwin said. "This is a longer duration than typical tropical systems."
Many of the beaches and some of the dunes have been torn up in the wake of Ian's indirect impacts and could be especially vulnerable to a direct assault by a tropical storm or hurricane coming in from the east.
There is a chance the center of the storm could track farther to the south or to the north. A track farther to the south along the eastern coast of Florida could bring more significant impacts in terms of coastal flooding and wind to Fort Lauderdale and Miami while a track more to the north could bring more severe conditions from the Florida Space Coast to the Jacksonville Beach area.
Because of Nicole's projected track and strength while pushing westward across the Florida Peninsula prior to the end of the week, conditions in Ian-ravaged areas of southwestern Florida will be on par with a moderate tropical storm with squally showers and thunderstorms and minimal water level rise.
However, with any tropical system that makes landfall, there is a risk of severe thunderstorms including isolated tornadoes and waterspouts. This risk includes much of the southern and central parts of the Florida Peninsula and Keys.
"It is extremely unusual for tropical storms to hit the east coast of Florida in November," AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor and meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said. "Besides the 1935 Miami Hurricane, the only other storm [to hit Florida's east coast during the month] was an unnamed system in 1946."
Only two hurricanes have struck Florida during the month of November, Ferrell added. Kate crashed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale in November of 1985 -- 50 years after the Miami Hurricane had made landfall in the southeastern part of the state.
This AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ satellite shows Subtropical Storm Nicole in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Sustained tropical-storm-force winds of 40 mph or greater are likely to reach the Florida east coast as early as Wednesday night. However, gusts of this intensity can occur on Tuesday or Tuesday night, due to the storm's large size.
"The tropical-storm-force winds will extend over a large area - much larger than a standard tropical storm," DePodwin said. Even though power outages may not be severe, sporadic power outages can extend over a broad zone in Florida and the coastal areas of the southeastern U.S. in general.
A broad area of tropical-storm-force winds stretching to nearly three-quarters of a million square miles is likely with Nicole. High winds and stormy seas will extend from the southeast of Bermuda to the northwestern Bahamas and the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States and even into the eastern Gulf of Mexico from the middle to late parts of the week.
The strongest wind gusts will depend on the peak intensity of Nicole but are currently expected to reach between 60 and 80 mph along the eastern coast of Florida with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 100 mph.
"Any hurricane-force winds should remain very close (perhaps within tens of miles) of the center where landfall occurs," DePodwin said.
After Nicole makes landfall, it will take a westward track across at least part of the Florida Peninsula before the system turns to the Northeast late this week.
It is possible that the system will track far enough to the west that much of Nicole's circulation will emerge over the Gulf of Mexico, near Tampa, which could allow the system to strengthen again. If, on the other hand, most of its center remains over land, then strengthening will be limited. AccuWeather forecasters say that stormy conditions will ramp up from Orlando to Tampa on Thursday and continue through Thursday night.
Since Nicole will push across the peninsula for 24-48 hours from Thursday to Friday, heavy rain will be unleashed. A general 4-8 inches of rain is forecast to fall near and north of the storm center with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 15 inches. Rainfall of this intensity is likely to lead to flooding of low-lying areas and significant rises along some of the rivers in the region.
Beyond Florida, Nicole will take a path that roughly parallels the U.S. East Coast and Canadian Atlantic coast from the end of this week through this weekend.
The extent of rain and wind -- including how far inland it will reach -- will be determined by Nicole's proximity to the coastline. Other factors that will play a role in Nicole's impact will be the interaction with a non-tropical storm and a dip in the jet stream.
The non-tropical storm and the jet stream will either steer the center of the storm and keep it moving with the worst effects occurring just offshore of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, or it will capture Nicole and pull it more to the west. In this case, heavy rain, strong winds and significant coastal impacts can occur.
At this time, AccuWeather meteorologists believe there will be significant impacts along the Georgia and Carolina coasts, southeastern Virginia and southeastern Massachusetts from Nicole as a tropical wind and rainstorm.
Stiff east to northeast winds well ahead of Nicole, regardless of the exact track, will lead to long-duration above-normal tides, coastal flooding and beach erosion this week well to the north of Florida.
AccuWeather meteorologists began warning that a tropical disturbance could form in the Caribbean back in the middle of October, highlighting the potential dangers that the U.S. could face.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30, but the tropical activity may not stop at Nicole. Already, the final month of the season has been busy. Nicole followed the development of Lisa and Martin, making November notably more active than August, during which no tropical storms were named for only the third time on record.
Indications are that areas from the west-central Atlantic to the Caribbean could remain active during the middle and latter part of November. The next two names on the list that forecasters use to draw attention to tropical systems are Owen and Paula.
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