Southeastern ports are bracing for a Category 1 hurricane when Nicole makes landfall in Florida late Wednesday night or early Thursday.
Condition Zulu, meaning the gates are closed and no operations are taking place, has come into force in Florida in Port Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and Jaxport. The ports of Savannah and Brunswick in Georgia and Charleston in South Carolina were in X-ray state Wednesday, meaning hurricane force winds are expected within 48 hours.
Passenger-focused airports in Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida were all expected to close Wednesday afternoon. The Associated Press reported that Miami International Airport, a major air cargo hub, experienced some delays and cancellations but was scheduled to remain open.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) tweeted Wednesday at 11:55 a.m. EST that Tropical Storm Nicole had made landfall in the Bahamas on Great Abaco Island with estimated maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.
In a 1 p.m. update, the NHC said the storm was about 175 miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla., at a speed of 12 miles per hour and that “tropical storm winds extend outward as much as 460 miles, particularly north of center.” . ”
“Nicole’s center will move near or across the Abacos and Grand Bahama in the Northwest Bahamas [Wednesday] Afternoon and move ashore within the hurricane warning area on Florida’s east coast [Wednesday night]”, says the NHC update. “Nicole’s center is then expected to move Thursday and Thursday night via central and northern Florida to southern Georgia and then Friday and Friday night across the Carolinas.”
The NHC forecast Nicole would be a Category 1 hurricane if it made impact on Florida’s east coast late Wednesday evening or just after midnight Thursday. A Category 1 hurricane has wind speeds of 74 to 95 mph.
In a briefing late Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Nicole is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in Martin County and sweep through the state, exit into the Gulf of Mexico, and then make landfall again somewhere in the Big Bend region in northern Florida.
“The combined winds and storm surge will contribute to ongoing beach erosion in areas already eroded by Hurricane Ian,” DeSantis said. “The storm’s wind field is very large and we expect impacts to extend well beyond the mid lane, including tropical storm winds as far north as Jacksonville. Winds are Nicole’s primary concern, but we also expect some heavy rain, the possibility of flash flooding and storm surges of 3 to 5 feet in some areas.”
He said evacuation orders have been issued for Brevard, Flagler, Martin, Palm Beach, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties in Florida. The governor on Monday declared a state of emergency for 34 counties in Nicole’s potential path.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered federal aid to supplement state and local emergency response. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also continues to provide assistance to Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian, which devastated parts of the southwest portion of the state in October.
The U.S. Coast Guard Southeast said its crews were making “heavy weather preparations” Wednesday in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. This included conducting flights along Florida’s East Coast, pre-preparing buoys aboard a cutter in Charleston, and preparing vessels and other equipment at US Coast Guard Mayport in Florida.
WJAX-TV meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh said Wednesday that a “heavy band of rain” along with the potential for waterspouts and tornadoes beginning Thursday morning will hit Florida’s Duval County, where Jaxport is located.
Winds of 50 to 60 mph and waves of 10 to 15 feet are forecast for the Jacksonville area.
“Wind will be a factor — and flooding,” Bedenbaugh said.
DeSantis said Floridians should expect power outages caused by the storm.
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