Subtropical Storm Nicole might impact Florida as a hurricane

Gov. Ron DeSantis declares state of emergency

Subtropical Storm Nicole showed signs of strengthening Tuesday morning as forecasters anticipate the system will turn west and make landfall in Florida this week as a possible hurricane.

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm was about 385 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in 34 counties, and a hurricane watch was in effect from Hallandale Beach to the border of Volusia and Brevard counties.

"Hurricane conditions are expected in the northwest Bahamas within the hurricane warning area by early Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected elsewhere in the northwest Bahamas by Tuesday night,” a 4 p.m. advisory from the center said.  "Hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area in Florida by Wednesday night with tropical storm conditions possible by Tuesday night or early Wednesday.”

The hurricane center said the storm could bring storm surge to much of the state’s East Coast and heavy rains and potential flooding across many parts of the state. The governor’s order covered Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia counties.

Florida Power & Light, which provides electricity on most of the East Coast, said it had activated its emergency-response plan and said it was preparing for “widespread outages.” The utility also said the storm has the potential to topple trees weakened in Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida and caused damage across the state.

“We recognize our customers are experiencing storm season fatigue after Hurricane Ian, but it’s important to be vigilant and focused as this storm approaches,” Eric Silagy, chairman and CEO of FPL, said in a prepared statement. “Ian saturated soil and weakened trees in many parts of the state, so Nicole could cause trees to topple over and other vegetation and debris to blow into overhead power lines and equipment, which may cause outages. We know our customers are counting on us and we are following our proven plan to be ready to respond safely and as quickly as possible.”

The storm is on track to approach Florida’s East Coast on Wednesday night at or near hurricane strength. The system is then expected to move through Central and North Florida before entering South Georgia on Thursday. Storm-surge warnings were in place from North Palm Beach up the coast into Georgia. A storm-surge warning also was in effect from the mouth of the St. Johns River to Georgetown in Putnam County.

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