ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hurricane Nicole made landfall Wednesday morning on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, now hurricane status — and some additional strengthening is expected.
Florida's eastern coastline remains at the greatest risk of experiencing hurricane conditions. In the Tampa Bay area, a tropical storm warning is in effect for much of the west coast of Florida for the likely impacts from gusty winds. Heavy downpours and storm surge is possible, too, especially on the Nature Coast where a storm surge warning is in effect.
The storm is anticipated to become a hurricane before it reaches Florida. In fact, the National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning from Boca Raton to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
As of the 4 p.m. Wednesday advisory, it is a 70-mph storm located about 135 miles east of West Palm Beach moving west at 13 mph.
Nicole is expected to turn toward the northwest on Thursday. Weather computer models have the storm making landfall on Florida's east coast Wednesday into Thursday.
Regardless of further development or the exact track of the storm, the system will bring heavy rainfall, the risk of coastal flooding, strong winds and rough surf. The southeastern United States coastline, Florida and the Bahamas will all feel the impact of this system during much of this week.
In the Tampa Bay area, expect 2-4 inches of rain — with some higher amounts, tropical storm-force winds and 2-3 feet above normal tides Thursday and Friday. Locations along the Nature Coast could see a storm surge should Nicole enter the Gulf of Mexico.
The following watches and warnings are in effect:
- The Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, and Grand Bahama Island in the northwestern Bahamas
- Boca Raton to Flagler/Volusia County Line Florida
Tropical storm warning:
- Bimini in the northwestern Bahamas
- Hallandale Beach Florida to Boca Raton Florida
- Flagler/Volusia County Line Florida to south Santee River South
- North of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass Florida
- Lake Okeechobee
Storm surge warning:
- North Palm Beach Florida to Altamaha Sound Georgia
- Mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown Florida
- Anclote River to Ochlockonee River
- Hallandale Beach to Boca Raton Florida
- Lake Okeechobee
Storm surge watch:
- Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass
- South of North Palm Beach to Hallandale Beach Florida
- Altamaha Sound Georgia to South Santee River South Carolina
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for much of Florida most at risk of seeing impacts from Hurricane Nicole.
The emergency declaration, issued by executive order, is "out of an abundance of caution" to allow the state to better respond to storm response and recovery, the governor said in a statement.
"While this storm does not, at this time, appear that it will become much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and to listen to announcements from local emergency management officials," DeSantis said in the statement. "We will continue to monitor the trajectory and strength of this storm as it moves towards Florida."
The governor's office said DeSantis advises people across the state to review their disaster preparedness plans, listen to all orders from local officials, know their evacuation zone, have multiple ways to receive weather alerts and keep car gas tanks at least half fuel.