Parts of Florida’s East Coast and multiple islands in the Bahamas are under a hurricane warning. Tropical Storm Nicole is about 310 miles away from the northwestern Bahamas and 420 miles away from West Palm Beach, and is expected to grow stronger, into a category 1 hurricane, as it moves westward, according to a Tuesday afternoon advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Nicole is a large storm, projected to impact a wide area—with heavy winds extending up to 380 miles from the center. The storm is forecast to hit the Bahamas beginning tonight and to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning, centered near Melbourne and impacting a section of coast from Miami all the way to Savannah, Georgia. Its maximum sustained winds are currently hovering around 60 miles per hour, but those are expected to grow more intense over the next day, according to the NHC.
On top of the damaging winds, forecasters are predicting storm surges of up to five feet in Florida, with the worst ones occurring between North Palm Beach and the Altamaha Sound. Three to five inches of rain are expected in the Bahamas and Florida, with local downpours of up to seven inches.
About a month ago, Hurricane Ian tore through Florida as a Category 4 storm, wreaking the worst havoc on the state’s West Coast. The hurricane killed more than 100 people in Florida. Many affected communities will likely take years to rebuild. Though Nicole is a much weaker storm than Ian, it’s still notable in other ways.
Atlantic hurricane season officially runs through the end of November, but hurricane strength storms in U.S. waters are rare this time of year. If Nicole proceeds as forecast and makes landfall in Florida as a Category 1 storm, it would be the the second-latest hurricane to hit the continental U.S. on record, according to a report from the New York Times. The latest was Hurricane Kate, which hit the state as a Category 2 on November 21, 1985. Hurricane Nicole would also be the latest recorded hurricane landfall for Florida’s East Coast, according to the Times.
Hurricanes gather their strength and moisture from warm ocean surface waters and humid air. Later storms indicate that sea surface temperatures are hot enough to support hurricane formation. Although we don’t yet fully understand the impacts of climate change on Atlantic cyclone frequency, research has demonstrated that climate change is increasing the intensity and severity of storms.