Hurricane Nicole is expected to make landfall along Florida’s east coast on Thursday as it continues to bring high winds, storm surges and heavy rain, forecasters said.
Nicole is a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and was tracking west-northwest at 14 mph about 30 miles east-southeast of Fort Pierce, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton to the Flagler/Volusia County line, while a hurricane watch was issued for Lake Okeechobee. The watch was canceled for Boca Raton in Hallandale Beach.
A tropical storm watch that was in effect for Miami-Dade has been canceled. Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches remained in effect for Broward County.
Forecast tracks showed Nicole making landfall along the east coast of Florida on Thursday, from Palm Beach County to the central Florida coast.
Nicole’s center is then expected to move through central and northern Florida into southern Georgia and the Carolinas. It is expected to weaken as it moves across Florida and likely to become a post-tropical cyclone by Friday afternoon.
Miami-Dade and Broward were outside the storm’s “cone of concern” but were experiencing flooding from heavy rain and gusty winds.
Nicole is the eighth hurricane of the 2022 season and a rare November hurricane for storm-weary Florida, where only two hurricanes have made landfall since record-keeping began in 1853 — Hurricane Yankee of 1935 and the Hurricane Kate in 1985.
At a press conference in Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern and major power outages could occur, but 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power, as well as 600 guards and seven search and rescue teams.
“It will affect large parts of the state of Florida all day,” DeSantis said of the storm’s expected landfall.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis provided an update on the state’s plan as Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to impact Florida’s east coast as a Category 1 hurricane.
Storm surge was expected that could further erode many of the beaches affected by Hurricane Ian in September.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet that storm surge from Tropical Storm Nicole had already breached the levee along Indian River Drive, which parallels the Atlantic Ocean. The Martin County Sheriff’s Office also said seawater breached part of a road on Hutchinson Island.
Residents of several Florida counties — Flagler, Palm Beach, Martin and Volusia — have been ordered to evacuate these barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes. Volusia, home to Daytona Beach, imposed a curfew and warned that intercoastal bridges used by evacuees would close when winds reached 39 mph.
In Palm Beach County, some 350 people checked into seven evacuation centers, including Hidir Dontar, a software engineer carrying a backpack and a plastic bag with his belongings. He said he didn’t want to stay in his apartment because the landlord didn’t put shutters on the windows, something he felt unsafe after experiencing “a bad” 2004 Hurricane Frances.
“I didn’t want to be in the middle of the storm, have something go wrong and be like, ‘What do I do now? ‘” Dontar said.
Heavy rain and crashing waves are only getting worse in West Palm Beach as Tropical Storm Nicole heads for Florida’s east coast. Reporting by Adrian Criscaut of NBC 6.
Meanwhile, Daytona Beach Shores officials have deemed at least half a dozen multi-story coastal residential buildings already damaged by Hurricane Ian and now threatened by Nicole unsafe. In some places, authorities went door to door telling people to seize their belongings and leave.
Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort said they were closing early Wednesday and likely won’t reopen as planned Thursday.
Palm Beach International Airport closed Wednesday morning and Daytona Beach International Airport announced it would cease operations. Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the United States, also closed. Further south, officials said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport were experiencing flight delays and cancellations, but both planned to remain open.
Nearly two dozen school districts were closing schools for the storm and 15 shelters had opened along Florida’s east coast, the governor said.
Forty-five of Florida’s 67 counties were under a state of emergency declaration.
South Florida is feeling the effects of Hurricane Nicole. NBC 6’s Willard Shepard and Kim Wynne have the latest with Team Storm coverage.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Floridians should expect possible tornadoes, rip currents and flash flooding.
Early Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Florida and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts as the storm approached. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still responding to those in need following Hurricane Ian.
On the beach just north of Mar-a-Lago as wind gusts approached 40mph on Wednesday afternoon, many people took videos of the choppy ocean. The normally calm waters had fast, strong waves with 5 foot breakers.
Denny DeHaven, who works for a Social Security advocacy group, said he lived inland so wasn’t too worried.
“It will only be a Category 1 – what worries me the most is a power outage,” he said. “The people I worry about are those who live here after seeing what happened in Fort Myers.” Hurricane Ian brought a storm surge of up to 13 feet in late September, causing widespread destruction.
In a video posted to Twitter, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the surge had already arrived and dozens of beachfront buildings were declared structurally unsafe. A mandatory evacuation was issued for the beach side, and a curfew was scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We’re looking for a really tough night here,” Chitwood said. “Now is not the time for hurricane fatigue. This is the last window of opportunity to secure your families and secure your properties, and perhaps save lives here.