Storm Nicolewith maximum sustained winds of 80 kph, was about 385 miles (615 km) northwest of the Bahamas as it moved west toward Florida, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory on Tuesday morning.
As the storm was expected to strengthen during the day as it traveled at 8 mph toward Florida, some 18 million people along the state’s Atlantic coast were placed under NHC surveillance and warnings.
The area was not directly affected by Hurricane Ian, but it did experience heavy rains and high winds from the catastrophic storm that claimed more than 140 lives and caused $60 billion in damage after hitting the state’s Gulf Coast six weeks ago.
On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for 34 counties along his state’s east coast, saying it was “in an abundance of caution” so that the area’s residents and businesses can prepare.
“While this storm doesn’t look like it will get much stronger at this point, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and listen to announcements from local emergency managers,” DeSantis said in a statement.
On the predicted track, Nicole’s center will approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday and move near or over the islands on Wednesday before approaching Florida’s east coast later in the day.
The center of Nicole was then expected to move through central and northern Florida to South Georgia on Thursday, the NHC said, warning of dangerous storm surges along with heavy winds and strong rains.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the agency said. “Persons located in these areas must take all necessary measures to protect lives and property from rising water and the potential for other hazardous conditions.”