Subtropical Storm Nicole is forecast to keep strengthening and is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane when it approaches Florida’s east coast late Wednesday into Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said Monday morning.
A hurricane watch is in effect along the east coast of Florida, from the Volusia/Brevard county line to Hallandale Beach, the hurricane center said.
The watch extends from just north of Miami to the Space Coast and includes Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral, and Melbourne.
A storm surge watch has also been issued for parts of Florida and Georgia, from Altamaha Sound to Hallandale Beach.
Florida officials are warning residents, including those recently hit by the destructive Hurricane Ian, that a tropical system could bring heavy rain and damaging winds this week.
The warning comes as Subtropical Storm Nicole has formed in the southwest Atlantic about 555 miles east of northwestern Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm, now packing winds of 45 mph with higher gusts, is expected to begin impacting Florida by Tuesday evening.
Already, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands are under a flash flood watch through Monday afternoon, and tropical storm watches are in effect for northwest Bahamas.
As the system forms, it will possibly churn toward Florida and the Southeast U.S. through early this week, according to CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
“Regardless of development, heavy rainfall, coastal flooding, gale force winds, and rip tides will impact eastern Florida and the southeast U.S.,” Shackelford explained.
Rainfalls in the Sunshine State could range between two and four inches, with isolated amounts possibly exceeding 6 inches, according to Shackelford.
Areas south of Tampa, some of which are still in recovery mode following Hurricane Ian's landfall in late September, could be drenched with two to four inches of rain. Orlando is also at risk of seeing one to two inches of rain while areas south of Jacksonville could be hit with one to four inches.
Ahead of the storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents Sunday to take precaution.
“I encourage all Floridians to be prepared and make a plan in the event a storm impacts Florida,” DeSantis said in a news release. “We will continue to monitor the path and trajectory of Invest 98L and we remain in constant contact with all state and local government partners.”
DeSantis stressed that residents should prepare for an increased risk of coastal flooding, heavy winds, rain, rip currents, and beach erosion. “Wind gusts can be expected as soon as Tuesday of next week along Florida’s East Coast,” he added.
On Tuesday, which is Election Day, much of the Florida Peninsula can expect breezy to gusty conditions. Chances of rain are expected to increase throughout the day for central and eastern cities such as Miami north to Daytona Beach and inland toward Orlando and Okeechobee.
“Conditions may deteriorate as early as Tuesday and persist into Thursday night/Friday morning,” the National Weather Service in Miami said. “Impacts to South Florida may include rip currents, coastal flooding, dangerous surf/marine conditions, flooding rainfall, strong sustained winds, and waterspouts/tornadoes.”
In the meantime, DeSantis said as the state continues recovering from Ian’s disastrous destruction, officials are also coordinating with local emergency management authorities across the state’s 67 counties.
The goal is to “identify potential resource gaps and to implement plans that will allow the state to respond quickly and efficiently ahead of the potential strengthening” of the storm system, said the release.
Hurricane Ian made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, packing nearly 150 mph winds. The storm killed at least 120 people in Florida, destroyed many homes, and leveled small communities. Thousands of people were without power or water for running days.
And although the exact forecast for the upcoming storm is still unclear, forecasters said confidence has increased that the storm system could develop into a tropical or subtropical depression within the next two days.
“The system could be at or near hurricane strength before it approaches the northwestern Bahamas and the east coast of Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the potential for a dangerous storm surge, damaging winds, and heavy rainfall to a portion of those areas,” the weather service said.