Nicole to make landfall in Florida tonight and spread dangerous conditions across the peninsula
Expansive Tropical Storm Nicole will impact the northern Bahamas today and make landfall on the east coast of Florida tonight. The storm is holding just below hurricane strength, limited by marginal atmospheric conditions, but there's a decent chance it will find just enough supportive atmosphere to jump up to hurricane strength before it reaches Florida.
Nicole is unlike the tropical storms and hurricanes we are familiar with because the storm's disruptive effects will spread hundreds of miles from the landfall point. The memorable aspect of this storm, besides its odd November appearance, will likely be the breadth of the disruptive impacts. While they will not be catastrophic, the wind, rain, and storm surge will still be dangerous in many areas.
Dry air and the storm's legacy as a non-tropical and subtropical system mean that most of the strong winds and intense rainfall will be to the right side of Nicole's track. When the system makes landfall late tonight on the Florida coast, the biggest impacts will be north of where the center crosses the coast. The strongest winds and storm surge will occur within 50 or 60 miles of the landfall point, but dangerous conditions will extend for hundreds of miles farther north along the Florida coast into Georgia and the Carolinas.
It is critical that everyone on the barrier islands from Palm Beach County, along the Treasure Coast, the Space Coast, and north to the Georgia line seek out local emergency information. Many counties have ordered evacuations, in some cases because of the lingering damage from Hurricane Ian. Dangerous scenarios exist in many locations.
Through the day tomorrow, Nicole will weaken as it tracks across the Florida peninsula. If the National Hurricane Center's forecast is reasonably correct, a corridor of heavy rain and gusty winds will affect the Orlando and Tampa metropolitan areas as well as the rest of North Florida. The strongest winds and heaviest rain will occur on the right side of the track.
Everybody in the central and northern parts Florida should be ready for winds gusting to 60 mph, which means some trees will come down and power will be knocked out in some areas. Use care where you park your car. Look for high ground away from trees or something that could blow over.
A corridor of heavy rain is forecast. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting widespread 3 to 5 inches, with some areas receiving 8 inches. That's enough to cause local flooding and exacerbate the flooding left over from Hurricane Ian in the St. Johns River if the heavy rain falls there.
There is some chance Nicole will track far enough west that it produces storm surge on the west coast of Florida in Tampa Bay and the Big Bend south of Tallahassee. Watch for forecast developments today and tomorrow.
Nicole will be disruptive over much of the Florida peninsula and dangerous in some areas. It is critical that everybody stay informed and make good decisions.
Be ready for power outages. If you have a generator and have to use it, position it away from the house. People die after every hurricane because they put their generator under an eave, on a porch, or in the garage.
Charge phones and computers. Power outages are likely to occur over widely separated parts of Florida. Prepare now for the possibility of it happening in your area.
By Friday, Nicole will be heading through Georgia toward South Carolina. A wintertime cold front and jet-stream scoop will grab the tropical moisture and spread it north up the east coast. Heavy rain is likely late in the week up the I-95 corridor.
Hopefully, that's that for hurricane season. After Nicole, hostile upper winds will return, keeping storms away from the U.S. But as we've seen, sometimes freak things happen, so nothing is guaranteed.