IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Tropical Storm Nicole expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it nears Florida

Nicole strengthened into a tropical storm Tuesday and is forecast to become a hurricane as it approaches Florida's coast Wednesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Nicole is expected to strengthen to a hurricane Wednesday as it approaches parts of east-central Florida and the Southeast coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Previously a subtropical storm, it was upgraded to a tropical storm Tuesday morning.

The tropical storm was about 395 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, and it was moving west at 10 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,” the hurricane center’s acting deputy director, Michael Brennan, said in an update Tuesday.

Residents prepare sandbags ahead of a possible hurricane in Volusia County, Fla.
Residents prepare sandbags before 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 it gets 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 up to 380 miles from the center, meaning its impact could be felt hundreds of miles from the center, especially on the north side of the storm, because of 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 a 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 north to the Ochlockonee River and on Georgia's east coast from the Altamaha Sound to the South Santee River in South Carolina, where tropical storm watches have been issued.

Parts of the eastern, central and northern Florida Peninsula, as well as the northwestern Bahamas, could get 3 to 7 inches of rain. Southeast Georgia and parts of South Carolina might get 1 to 4 inches, and heavy rain could spread farther north up the Eastern Seaboard late Thursday into Friday.

"Dangerous storm surge" 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's a lot of vulnerability there along the coast to coastal flooding, significant wave action and storm surge," Brennan said.

A storm surge watch is also in effect south of North Palm Beach down to Hallandale Beach and from the Altamaha Sound in Georgia to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

Flash flooding and urban flooding are also likely across the Florida Peninsula on Wednesday and Thursday because of 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 a 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.

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 in low-lying areas, Mayor Robert Weinroth said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

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

Brevard County, about two hours north of Palm Beach, has recommended evacuations starting Wednesday morning. The recommendation is for residents living in mobile homes, on barrier islands and in low-lying areas. People with special medical needs that depend on electricity are also encouraged to evacuate.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will not operate tours Wednesday "due to operational restrictions," and it will close Thursday, it said in a statement.

Orlando International Airport and Melbourne Orlando International Airport both announced that they will be closing Wednesday afternoon.

If Nicole hits Florida as a hurricane, it will be only the fourth on record to make landfall in the U.S. 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.