Breaking - Nicole, now a hurricane, barrels toward Florida
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Nicole is advancing quickly toward Florida. The maximum sustained winds have increased to 75 mph making it a low end hurricane at 75 mph.
It’s a rare November hurricane for storm-weary Florida, where only two other hurricanes have made landfall since recordkeeping began in 1853 — the 1935 Yankee hurricane and hurricane Kate which hit Mexico Beach in 1985.
At 7 p.m. EST, the storm was 105 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said. Its maximum sustained winds were recorded at 75 mph (120 kph), and the system was moving west at 12 mph (19 kph).
A storm surge warning has been issued from the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs north to the Panhandle. The Suncoast remains under a tropical storm warning, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area.
Nicole was expected to be the first storm to make landfall in the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian, a devastating Category 5 storm that hit the archipelago in 2019, before hitting storm-weary Florida on Wednesday night and moving into Georgia on Thursday.
“We are asking people to please take it (seriously),” said Andrea Newbold with the Disaster Management Unit for Social Services. “Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Nicole became a hurricane as it slammed into Grand Bahama, Wednesday evening.
Residents in at least three Florida Counties — Flagler, Palm Beach and Volusia — were ordered to evacuate from barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes. Disney World and related theme parks announced they were closing early on Wednesday evening and likely would not reopen as scheduled on Thursday. Evacuations were ordered across the area, including at Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
Palm Beach International Airport closed Wednesday morning, and Daytona Beach International Airport said it would cease operations at 12:30 p.m. Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the U.S., was set to close at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Further south, officials said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport were experiencing some flight delays and cancellations but both planned to remain open.
Sarasota Bradenton International Airport plans to remain open but officials said they expect some flight cancelations. Debris collection has been suspended in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
New warnings and watches were issued for many parts of Florida, including the southwestern Gulf coastline which was devastated by Hurricane Ian, which struck as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 28. The storm destroyed homes and damaged crops, including orange groves, across the state.
Ian lashed much of the central region of Florida with heavy rainfall, causing flooding that many residents are still dealing with as Nicole approaches. Forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm could reach hurricane strength before making landfall in Florida.
The storm is then expected to move across central and northern Florida into southern Georgia on Thursday, forecasters said. It was then expected to move across the Carolinas on Friday.
In preparation, many school districts in Florida canceled classes on Wednesday and Thursday.
Early Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts to the approaching storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still responding to those in need from Hurricane Ian.
-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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