FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Just weeks before the end of the 2022 hurricane season, South Florida could feel the impacts of potential Hurricane Nicole, and experts said that the threat to the region is increasing.
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency in 34 Florida counties, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, on Monday out of an abundance of caution as Nicole, a subtropical storm, is forecast to strengthen and potentially make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane by midweek.
Coastal flood statements and hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge watches went up along Florida’s east coast Monday morning, and officials are urging Floridians to prepare now and stay vigilant.
“We are technically still in hurricane season until the end of this month,” he said. “So don’t let your guard down just because it’s in November. It’s rare we get them this time of year, but we could still get them,” Barry Baxter, a meteorologist for National Weather Service Miami, said.
Forecasters say Nicole is “a large storm” that is expected to move over or near the Bahamas Tuesday into Wednesday, and approach Florida’s east coast Wednesday night. The latest estimates said its maximum sustained winds this week could to reach 75 mph, just 1 mph over the minimum threshold for a Category 1 hurricane.
“It’s not out of the question for Nicole to reach hurricane strength, especially given how warm the waters are in the vicinity of the Bahamas,” experts said Monday.
As of 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday, Nicole had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving northwest at 9 mph about 435 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas. It is forecast to turn northwest Monday, then Nicole’s center will approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday before approaching Florida’s east coast Wednesday night.
The storm will strengthen Tuesday night and Wednesday and will be at or near hurricane strength by Wednesday or Wednesday night, the hurricane center’s latest advisory said.
“Do not focus on the exact track of Nicole since it is expected to be a large storm with hazards extending well to the north of the center, and outside of the cone, and affect much of the Florida peninsula and portions of the southeast U.S.,” forecasters said.
“I urge all Floridians to be prepared and to listen to announcements from local emergency management officials,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to monitor the trajectory and strength of this storm as it moves towards Florida.”