(CNN) – Nicole has become a tropical storm – with scattered showers impacting parts of Florida this midterm Election Day – and is expected to strengthen more before slamming the state's east coast early Thursday as the first hurricane to strike the United States in November in nearly 40 years.
New hurricane warnings are in effect Tuesday for parts of Florida ahead of Nicole's expected landfall early Thursday morning north of West Palm Beach as a Category 1 hurricane with torrential rain and damaging winds, as many across the state continue to endure the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“#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 tweeted.
\u201cDont 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.\u201d
— National Weather Service (@National Weather Service)
Churning Tuesday 350 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas, Nicole continues to strengthen and get better organized, then starting Wednesday is due to produce heavy rain that could lead to dangerous storm surge and high winds, said Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center.
It is projected to be a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida by Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, Rhome said Monday in a video briefing posted online.
— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)
Up to seven inches of rain and storm surge that could rise up to five feet along the coast, combined with high winds, are mainly forecast for Wednesday evening and Thursday.
“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.
The storm is not expected to intensify rapidly like Ian did in late September before killing at least 120 people in Florida and destroying areas still reeling from the destruction. No hurricane has hit the U.S. in November since Hurricane Kate struck Florida as a Category 2 in 1985.
“We’re not forecasting a major hurricane,” Rhome said. “Again, not an Ian situation, but still a potentially impactful system.”
Nearly two million people are now under a hurricane warning that extends from Boca Raton to the Flagler-Volusia County line; a hurricane watch runs north from there to Ponte Vedra Beach.
Nearly 15 million people are under a tropical storm warning – with conditions expected in the zone within 36 hours – from Hallandale Beach, Florida, north to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, plus Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida. And along the state's west coast – from north of Bonita Beach to the Ochlockonee River – places slammed by Ian are now under tropical storm watches.
More than 5 million people are under a storm surge warning from North Palm Beach, Florida, north to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, including the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County urged residents to prepare.
“Residents and visitors should monitor the forecast and make sure their storm kit is up-to-date,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said online. “We’re taking all needed precautions to prepare for potential flooding and power outages.”
Miami-Dade County officials are not expecting the storm to impact Election Day, Levine Cava said.