Tropical Storm Nicole has strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane and is approaching the east coast of Florida.
Nicole made its first landfall in the northwestern Bahamas as a tropical storm shortly before noon Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, but as it re-entered the sea it gained in organization and intensity.
Hurricane Nicole's large wind field means that winds of 75 to 150 mph or greater extend west, north and east of that center, even as far as Florida. Coastal flooding, high winds, torrential rains and tornadoes are also expected along the southeastern coast of the United States.
6 PM UPDATE | Nicole has been upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane. Maximum sustained winds of 75 mph have been found within the storm. Conditions will continue to deteriorate through the rest of the evening and into tonight. This does not change our expected impacts! pic.twitter.com/3U3GvYqYwU— NWS Melbourne (@NWSMelbourne) November 9, 2022
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) report , Nicole was expected to reach Florida on Wednesday night and trigger a storm surge that could further erode many beaches hit by Hurricane Ian in September, before heading to Georgia and the Carolinas later Thursday and Friday. It was expected to dump heavy rain across the region.
Nicole's center was located 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).
Nicole is moving toward the west near 13 mph (20 km/h).
It is expected to move inland over the east coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area from Boca Raton to the Flagler/Volusia county line tonight.
The Martin County Sheriff's Office reported, “Storm surge has already reached portions of MacArthur Blvd. on Hutchinson Island. Residents who need to leave should do so now. High water rescue vehicles are on the way.”
Storm surge has already breached parts of MacArthur Blvd. on Hutchinson Island. Residents who need to leave must do so now. High water rescue vehicles are in route. pic.twitter.com/PzZqsKcu3U— MartinCountySheriff (@MartinFLSheriff) November 9, 2022
Residents of Flagler, Palm Beach, Martin and Volusia counties were ordered to evacuate from barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes.
Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, imposed a curfew and warned that intercoastal bridges used by evacuees would close when winds reach 39 mph, according to The Associated Press.
Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort announced they would close early Wednesday and likely not reopen as scheduled Thursday.
Palm Beach International Airport closed Wednesday morning and Daytona Beach International Airport said it would stop operating.
Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the United States, also closed. 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.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said winds were the biggest concern and significant power outages could occur, but 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power, as well as 600 guards and seven search and rescue teams.
“It will affect large parts of the state of Florida all day,” DeSantis said of the storm's expected arrival.
Nearly two dozen school districts were closing schools because of the storm and 15 shelters had opened along Florida's east coast, the governor said.
Forty-five of Florida's 67 counties were under a state of emergency declaration.