A powerful storm packing torrential rain and damaging winds could slam into Florida’s east coast as a Category 1 hurricane this week as many residents are still enduring the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Subtropical Storm Nicole is expected to strengthen slowly as it approaches the Florida Peninsula, bringing heavy rain that could lead to dangerous storm surges and high winds beginning Wednesday, according to Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center.
“We’re probably going to have good chunks of the Florida Peninsula impacted by these conditions,” Rhome said Monday in a video briefing posted online.
More than 20 million people are under tropical storm alerts from Hallandale Beach, Florida, all the way north to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, according to according to CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford. Plus, a tropical storm warning has been issued for Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, he said.
Additionally, more than five million people are under storm surge warnings from North Palm Beach northward to Altamaha Sound, including the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown, Shackelford added.
As of early Tuesday, more than eight million people were under hurricane watches in Florida, Shackelford said. The storm is expected to make landfall above West Palm Beach, he said.
Nicole is not expected to intensify rapidly like Hurricane Ian did in late September when it killed at least 120 of people in its path in Florida and destroyed communities that are still reeling from the destruction.
“We’re not forecasting a major hurricane,” Rhome said. “Again, not an Ian situation, but still a potentially impactful system.”
Impactful in the sense it’s projected to be a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida by Wednesday evening, Rhome said.
“Florida residents need to be taking this seriously,” Rhome said.
The warning comes as a hurricane watch is currently in effect along the east coast of Florida, from the Volusia/Brevard county line to Hallandale Beach, according to the hurricane center.
The watch also extends from just north of Miami to the Space Coast and includes Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral and Melbourne.
Subtropical Storm Nicole packs wind speed of 45 miles, with higher gusts, Tuesday as it churns toward Florida from the northwestern Bahamas, where a hurricane warning is in effect.
“Dont let the ‘sub’ fool you. #Nicole is a formidable storm that will have major impacts all along the southeastern U.S. coastline, not only near the center. Coastal flooding, large waves and rip currents will extend from the tip of FL to NC,” the National Weather Service explained.
Millions of Floridians under storm watches on Election Day
As many people across Florida head to the polls on Tuesday for midterms Election Day, forecasters are warning them to be prepared.
“Florida can expect scattered showers and storm to begin to impact parts of the state by Tuesday afternoon,” Shackelford said.
“The storm surge will be accompanied by large and damaging waves. Residents in the warning area should listen to advice given by local officials,” the hurricane center said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said online that she’s been briefed on the storm and urged residents to prepare.
“Residents and visitors should monitor the forecast and make sure their storm kit is up-to-date,” Levine Cava said in a social media post. “We’re taking all needed precautions to prepare for potential flooding and power outages.”
Officials are not expecting the storm to impact Election Day on Tuesday.
Rhome, the acting director of the hurricane center, explained that the potential for coastal flooding exists for a large area along the eastern coast of the Florida Peninsula beginning Wednesday, adding that some of those areas were hit by Hurricane Ian.
The main threats to Florida are heavy rain amounts up to 7 inches, and storm surge that could rise up to 5 feet along the coast combined with high winds. Those conditions are mainly forecast for Wednesday evening and Thursday.