Tropical Storm Nicole Approaches Florida, Thousands Under Evacuation Orders

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Tropical Storm Nicole began pummeling the Bahamas on Wednesday. However, Florida’s east coast is expected to see the brunt of the storm as it becomes a Category 1 hurricane later in the day. Ahead of the storm’s approach, thousands of Floridians have already been placed under evacuation orders. The orders come just weeks after people statewide began putting their lives back together following Hurricane Ian’s impact.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, tropical-storm-force winds began reaching the Florida coast late Wednesday morning. These winds currently extend outward 460 miles, packing gusts up to 55 miles per hour. These readings were taken at Palm Beach County’s Lake Worth Pier. Weather stations across the Bahamas simultaneously recorded wind gusts reaching up to 60 miles per hour.

Forecasters predict that Tropical Storm Nicole will actually transition into a Cat-1 hurricane before making landfall in Florida Wednesday night. Warnings are currently in place for regions spanning the Volusia-Flagler county line south to Boca Raton.

At 10 a.m., the National Hurricane Center placed Tropical Storm Nicole 25 miles east-northeast of Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. The advisory further placed Nicole 210 miles east of West Palm Beach. At the time, Nicole boasted 70-mile-per-hour maximum sustained windspeeds, heading west at 12 miles per hour.

Where Will Tropical Storm Nicole Make Landfall?

Forecasters have been tracking Tropical Storm Nicole’s movements for days. But, by Wednesday, they were finally able to pinpoint where the system’s center is most likely to strike. Per the news outlet, they believe Nicole’s center will make contact with Florida south of Brevard. The hurricane will most likely initially impact Martin or St. Lucie County before heading northwestward through the state.

The National Weather Service said in a statement, “Confidence is increasing that Nicole will make landfall along the Treasure Coast at or near hurricane strength after midnight tonight. Due to the large area of strong winds extending well to the north and northwest of Nicole’s center, weather and ocean conditions will continue to steadily deteriorate today through tonight.”

In addition to heavy winds, experts are also expecting Tropical Storm Nicole to bring significant rainfall. Certain areas are expected to see anywhere between 3 and 5 inches. Flooding will likely occur in areas where water levels remain high following Hurricane Ian.

As if heavy gusts and gales, significant rainfall, and damaging floods didn’t pose enough of a threat to already distressed Floridians, forecasters suggested that some tornadoes could also form as the storm becomes a hurricane, likely to develop Wednesday evening and increasing overnight.

With potentially life-threatening conditions to strike Florida within hours, experts have emphasized that the time for preparations is coming to a close. The NWS said, “If you haven’t already done so, any last minute preparations for significant impacts from Nicole should be rushed to completion early this morning, before outdoor activities become dangerous.”