Hurricane, tropical storm watches issued along Florida's east coast ahead of Nicole's midweek arrival
The issuance of hurricane and tropical storm watches Monday is a sign of what's ahead along the east coast of Florida as Nicole moves in by midweek.
Hurricane Watches have been issued from the Volusia-Brevard County line to just north of Miami at Hallandale Beach. Outside of this region, tropical storm watches will go into effect from the mouth of the St. Marys River along the Florida-Georgia border to the Biscayne Bay. The extent of the tropical storm watches include Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami. Aside from the wind alerts, storm surge watches are in effect from the Florida-Georgia border to north of Miami.
Late Monday morning's advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows Subtropical Storm Nicole centered east of the Bahamas with sustained winds of 45 miles per hour. While Nicole is moving northwestward early this week, the system is forecast to encounter a large ridge of high pressure over the Eastern Seaboard. This feature in the atmosphere will steer Nicole toward the southwest Tuesday into Wednesday, where it is forecast to lash the Bahamas as a hurricane Wednesday. Where exactly Nicole will go from there remains uncertain, but confidence has grown in recent updates that a landfall along Florida's east coast is likely Wednesday into Thursday. Current forecast guidance has Nicole making landfall most likely between Cape Canaveral and Key Biscayne in the northern Florida Keys as either a high end tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane. Where Nicole goes after making landfall is still uncertain, however, guidance is coming into agreement that Nicole will likely emerge along the Gulf Coast of Florida between Tampa and the Big Bend Thursday night. The expansive wind field associated with Nicole will result in tropical-storm-force winds as far west as the Pensacola area through Friday afternoon, possibly lasting into the overnight hours Friday.
Regardless of whether Nicole makes landfall as a hurricane or tropical storm, impacts along the east coast of Florida will likely be significant. Where hurricane watches are in place, hurricane-force winds of at least 74 miles per hour are most likely Wednesday into Thursday. In the areas where tropical storm watches are in effect, winds Wednesday into Thursday could be sustained at between 39 and 73 miles per hour. Residents are encouraged to stay updated to the forecast in the coming days, as wind alerts will likely expand over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Impacts are forecast to be most intense in coastal areas due to the multi-faceted aspect of storm surge, erosion, and flood potential. Surge forecasts along the east coast of Florida are between three and five feet from the First Coast to the Treasure Coast.
Storm surge could be locally higher, especially near and north of where Nicole makes landfall. Evacuation orders could be issued later this week, especially for Zone A. If that does occur, residents are encouraged to evacuate. Coastal inundation and flooding are possible, especially along the St. Johns River where flooding from late-September's Hurricane Ian is still ongoing north of Orlando. As a reminder, coastal inundation is possible Thursday and Friday, especially during high tide times. Rainfall from Nicole will likely be substantial, especially across central Florida where rainfall totals could climb to nearly a half foot. It will not take much for flooding to occur in these areas, as many of these locations are running a surplus from Ian's impact nearly six weeks ago. The Weather Prediction Center has much of the Peninsula under an elevated risk for flash flooding Wednesday and Thursday, as heavy rain associated with Nicole could be too much for drainage systems to withstand. As with any landfalling tropical system, the risk for a few tornadoes will also be possible. The Day 3 outlook for severe weather issued by the Storm Prediction Center depicts a "marginal" risk from Jacksonville to Miami inland to the Florida Turnpike. This area is where a few tropically-induced tornadoes are possible. Tropical tornadoes tend to be weaker, however, they are well-known for developing quickly and without much advanced notice. Tornado watches will likely be issued as Nicole makes landfall Wednesday into Thursday. "It is critical for Floridians to review their disaster preparedness plans and follow all directions from local officials in anticipation of potential impacts," Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said in a press release issued Sunday. Floridians are encouraged to have their hurricane plan in place and to evacuate if told to do so by local officials. Every resident should have multiple ways of getting weather alerts, especially during tropical events where tornadoes could quickly form. The forecast will likely be fine-tuned in the days to come, so monitor additional updates from trusted and reliable sources like the National Hurricane Center.