Home / News / World /  Tropical storm Nicole churns in Atlantic, on the way towards Florida

On Tuesday, Tropical Storm Nicole churned toward the western Bahamas and the Atlantic coastline of Florida, and forecasters said it would soon become a hurricane.

Several watches and warnings are still in effect. Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida's southwest Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm in late September before dumping copious amounts of rain across much of the state's central region, has left many areas still reeling from the damage it caused. Forecasters warned that areas still recovering from Ian's flooding could experience heavy rain.

The Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, and Grand Bahama Island all had hurricane warnings in effect, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Additionally, a tropical storm warning was still in effect for Andros Island, New Province, and Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

Long lines could be seen at grocery stores and gas stations as people got ready for the storm, according to Eliane Hall, a hotel employee on the island of Great Abaco.

“We just boarded it up," she said of the hotel, adding that the impact of Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm that struck in 2019, was still fresh in many people's minds. “We're still affected."

Authorities said they were particularly worried about those who had lost their homes to Dorian and were now living in about 100 motorhomes in Grand Bahama, as well as the migrant community in Great Abaco's March Harbor, which according to Russell has expanded from 50 acres (20 hectares) to 200 acres (81 hectares) since Dorian. Given the vast majority of flimsy structures in which many people lived, the previous community of Haitian migrants was among the worst affected by the 2019 storm.

The storm is expected to make landfall in Florida as a Category 1 hurricane late on Wednesday or early on Thursday, according to the hurricane centre, though the exact path is still uncertain.

Hurricane warnings were issued for a significant portion of Florida's Atlantic Coast on Tuesday morning, extending from Boca Raton to north of Daytona Beach. There are tropical storm warnings in effect for additional Florida coastline locations, all the way up to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. Tropical storm watches are in effect along Florida's Gulf Coast from Bonita Beach in southwest Florida to the Ochlockonee River in the Panhandle. The warning area also extends inland, covering Lake Okeechobee.

According to Bevin, the storm has a "very large cyclonic envelope," which means that even if it makes landfall in central Florida, Georgia will experience its effects.

Bevin stated that the storm was not anticipated to have any effect on Tuesday's elections in Florida.

On Tuesday, officials in the Bahamas closed schools and government buildings in Abaco, Bimini, the Berry Islands, and Grand Bahama while opening more than twenty shelters throughout the archipelago.

Authorities urged residents of shantytowns to seek safe shelter as the storm approached because airports and seaports would close and not reopen until Thursday.

Communities in Abaco, which are still recovering from Dorian, are anticipated to take a direct hit from Nicole.

“We don't have time to beg and plead for persons to move," said Capt. Stephen Russell, emergency management authority director.

Sandbags were available to residents in some counties in Florida. Shelters were scheduled to open at 7 a.m. on Wednesday in Indian River County, which is north of West Palm Beach, despite the fact that no mandatory evacuation orders had been issued as of late Tuesday morning, according to spokesman Mason Kozac.

Any evacuations would be strictly voluntary, with residents “having a conversation with themselves about whether they need to leave or not," Kozac said.

As the storm approaches, schools will be closed in numerous counties throughout Florida. Due to the Veteran's Day holiday, some businesses have announced closures through Friday. School closures for Thursday have been announced in other districts.

In Seminole County, north of Orlando, Hurricane Ian caused unprecedented flooding, and officials are concerned the impending storm could bring a new round of flooding and wind damage.

“The water on the ground has saturated the root structures of many trees. The winds could bring down trees and those could bring down power lines," Alan Harris, Seminole County's emergency manager, said at a Tuesday news conference.

The storm was about 420 miles (680 kilometres) east of West Palm Beach, Florida, and 310 miles (500 kilometres) northeast of the northwest Bahamas at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. With maximum sustained winds of up to 60 mph, it was moving at a speed of 9 mph (15 kph) (95 kph).

According to the National Hurricane Center's advisory, the storm's centre is up to 380 miles (610 kilometres) away from where tropical storm-force winds are present.

From 1 June to 30 November, the Atlantic hurricane season is in effect. Tropical Storm Eta, which made landfall in Cedar Key on the state's Gulf Coast on 12 November, 2020, was the last storm to hit Florida in November.

(With inputs from PTI)

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