(NEW YORK) — Nicole has strengthened to a tropical storm as it approaches Florida, where hurricane warnings are now in effect.
Nicole is forecast to continue to strengthen Tuesday and Wednesday, and is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane when it makes landfall between Melbourne and Cocoa Beach Wednesday night.
The storm could impact election week in Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is running against Democratic rival Charlie Crist and Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., is trying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for 34 of Florida’s 67 counties.
Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light has urged customers to prepare for power outages and activated its emergency response plan ahead of Nicole’s potential impact on the state this week.
“[Hurricane] Ian saturated soil and weakened trees in many parts of the state, so Nicole could cause trees to topple over and other vegetation and debris to blow into overhead power lines and equipment, which may cause outages,” Florida Power & Light chairman and CEO Eric Silagy said in a statement Monday.
Nicole formed in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean on Monday, becoming the 14th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends this month. Nicole’s center is expected to approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday, move near or over those islands on Wednesday, then approach the east coast of Florida and make landfall there late Wednesday night. It will move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia on Thursday, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.
Hurricane conditions are expected in the northwestern Bahamas, within the hurricane warning area, on Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning across the entire area by Tuesday night. A storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels along the coast in areas of onshore winds, according to the National Weather Service.
Hurricane conditions are possible along Florida’s east coast, within the hurricane watch area, by Wednesday night, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are also possible along Florida’s west coast, within the watch area, by Wednesday night.
Through Friday, Nicole is expected to produce between 3 and 5 inches of rainfall across the northwestern Bahamas into the eastern, central and northern part of the Florida Peninsula, with a maximum of 7 inches for localized rain. Southeastern Georgia into portions of South Carolina could see 1 to 4 inches of rain. The storm’s “heavy rainfall” will spread north farther up the Eastern Seaboard late Thursday into Friday.
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