Subtropical Storm Nicole updates: Could make landfall as a hurricane in Florida

(NEW YORK) — A number of severe weather alerts are now in effect along Florida’s east coast as Subtropical Storm Nicole makes its way toward the Sunshine State.

The National Weather Service has warned that Nicole could be as strong as a hurricane when it arrives in eastern Florida late Wednesday.

The storm could impact election week in the southeastern U.S. state, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is running against Democratic rival Charlie Crist and Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., is trying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for 34 of Florida’s 67 counties.

“While this storm does not, at this time, appear that it will become much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared,” the governor said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to monitor the trajectory and strength of this storm as it moves towards Florida.”

Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light has urged customers to prepare for power outages and activated its emergency response plan ahead of Nicole’s potential impact on the state this week.

“[Hurricane] Ian saturated soil and weakened trees in many parts of the state, so Nicole could cause trees to topple over and other vegetation and debris to blow into overhead power lines and equipment, which may cause outages,” Florida Power & Light chairman and CEO Eric Silagy said in a statement Monday.

Nicole formed in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean on Monday, becoming the 14th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends this month. Nicole’s center is expected to approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday, move near or over those islands on Wednesday, then approach the east coast of Florida and make landfall there late Wednesday night. It will move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia on Thursday, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

Currently, Nicole wields maximum sustained winds of about 50 miles per hour, with higher gusts. Winds of 40 mph extend outward up to 380 miles from the storm’s center.

“Nicole is expected to make a transition to a tropical storm later today and begin strengthening, and it is forecast to be near or at hurricane strength by Wednesday and Wednesday night while it is moving near the northwestern Bahamas and approaching the east coast of Florida,” the National Weather Service said in a public advisory on Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service has issued hurricane and tropical storm warnings for parts of the northwestern Bahamas. Tropical storm and storm surge warnings, tropical storm and storm surge watches as well as hurricane watches were issued for portions of southern and central Florida as well as coastal southeastern Georgia.

“Interests in the central Bahamas, the remainder of Florida, and along the southeastern coast of the United States should monitor the progress of Nicole,” the National Weather Service said in a public advisory on Tuesday morning. “Additional watches or warnings may be required later today.”

Hurricane conditions are expected in the northwestern Bahamas, within the hurricane warning area, on Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning across the entire area by Tuesday night. A storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels along the coast in areas of onshore winds, according to the National Weather Service.

Hurricane conditions are possible along Florida’s east coast, within the hurricane watch area, by Wednesday night, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are also possible along Florida’s west coast, within the watch area, by Wednesday night.

Through Friday, Nicole is expected to produce between 3 and 5 inches of rainfall across the northwestern Bahamas into the eastern, central and northern part of the Florida Peninsula, with a maximum of 7 inches for localized rain. Southeastern Georgia into portions of South Carolina could see 1 to 4 inches of rain. The storm’s “heavy rainfall” will spread north farther up the Eastern Seaboard late Thursday into Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Large swell waves generated by Nicole will affect the northwestern Bahamas, the east coast of Florida and much of the southeastern U.S. coast over the next several days.

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the National Weather Service warned.

Tropical weather systems have the potential to quickly grow into hurricanes, while subtropical ones do not. A subtropical storm typically generates more rain and heavy thunderstorms. If a subtropical storm intensifies enough to have hurricane-force winds, then it has become fully tropical. There is no such thing as a subtropical hurricane, according to the National Weather Service.

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