Hurricane warning is issued for parts of Florida's east coast as Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to strengthen

Nicole on Tuesday was upgraded to a tropical storm and is expected to strengthen, prompting a hurricane warning for parts of east central Florida and the southeast coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The tropical storm is about 460 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and moving west at 9 mph.

“Anywhere in that area, including places like West Palm Beach, Stewart, Melbourne, up to Daytona Beach, anywhere in here is at the risk of hurricane conditions as we are expecting Nicole to take advantage of these warm waters and go on and intensify to a hurricane as it approaches the coast during the next 36 to 48 hours,” acting Deputy Director Michael Brennan for the hurricane center said during an update Tuesday.

Residents prepare sandbags ahead of a possible hurricane in Volusia County, Fla.NBC News

Weather conditions along the state’s east coast are expected to worsen Tuesday night into Wednesday as tropical storm-force winds move inland, he said.

The center of Nicole is expected to approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday and be at or near hurricane strength as it moves near or over the islands Wednesday before getting to Florida’s east coast Wednesday night. The storm is then “expected to move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia Thursday and Thursday night,” the hurricane center said.

Nicole is a large storm with winds of 40 mph extending outward up to 380 miles from the center, meaning the storm’s impact could be felt hundreds of miles away from the center, especially on the north side of the storm due its lopsided nature.

Hurricane conditions including strong winds, rainfall and storm surge are expected in the northwestern Bahamas and along Florida’s east coast Wednesday, with tropical storm warning in effect in Georgia along the east coast, as well.

Tropical storm conditions are also possible on Florida’s west coast from Bonita Beach all the way north to the Ochlockonee River, where a tropical storm watch has been issued.

Portions of the eastern, central and northern Florida Peninsula, as well as the northwestern Bahamas, can receive anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of rain. Southeast Georgia and parts of South Carolina may get 1 to 4 inches, and heavy rainfall may spread further north up the Eastern Seaboard late Thursday into Friday.

“Dangerous storm surge” anywhere from 3 to 5 feet is also expected along Florida and Georgia’s east coast from North Palm Beach to the Altamaha Sound.

“These areas were significantly impacted, especially central and north Florida, during Hurricane Ian, so there’ a lot of vulnerability there along the coast to coastal flooding, significant wave action and storm surge,” Brennan said.

Flash flooding and urban flooding are also likely across the Florida Peninsula on Wednesday and Thursday due to rises on the St. Johns River.

In the northwest Bahamas, there may be storm surge of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide along the coast.

The east coast of Florida from Boca Raton to Volusia County remains under hurricane watch along with islands in the northwestern Bahamas, including Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos.

In Volusia County, residents were preparing for the storm by making sandbags to help reduce flood water damage.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Monday for 34 counties in the path of the storm, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward, Orange and Sarasota counties.

Palm Beach County, where a local state of emergency was declared Monday, issued a mandatory evacuation for residents who live in mobile home parks, on barrier islands and low-lying areas, Mayor Robert Weinroth announced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

All Palm Beach County health care clinics and schools in its district will also be closed Wednesday and Thursday out of an abundance of caution, officials said.

Brevard County, located about two hours north of Palm Beach, has issued a recommended evacuation starting Wednesday morning. The recommendation is for residents living in mobile homes, on barrier islands and in low-lying areas. Those with special medical needs that require electrical dependence are also encouraged to evacuate.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will not operate tours on Wednesday “due to operational restrictions” and will close on Thursday, according to a statement.

Orlando International Airport announced that it would “cease commercial operations” starting Wednesday at 4 p.m. “until circumstances permit operations resume.”

If Nicole hits Florida as a hurricane, it will be only the fourth on record to make landfall in the United States during November. Previously, Hurricane Kate and the Yankee Hurricane hit Florida in 1985 and 1935 respectively.

The Bahamian government also issued a warning.

“The late-season storm is a reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet as the Atlantic hurricane season continues through November 30th,” the statement read.

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