FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – South Florida is now in the forecast cone for Subtropical Storm Nicole, which is forecast to be near hurricane strength, or possibly a hurricane, by midweek, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory.
Forecasters say Nicole, which formed early Monday, is “a large storm” that is expected to move over or near the Bahamas Wednesday, and approach Florida’s east coast Wednesday night. Latest estimates Monday said its maximum sustained winds this week could to reach 70 mph, just 4 mph under the threshold for a Category 1 hurricane.
“It’s not out of the question for Nicole to reach hurricane strength, especially given how warm the waters are in the vicinity of the Bahamas,” experts said early Monday.
A tropical storm watch was in effect early Monday for the northwestern Bahamas, Grand Bahama, Bimini and surrounding islands. The National Hurricane Center said it may issue additional warnings later Monday for the central Bahamas and parts of southeast Florida.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Nicole had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving north-northwest at 14 mph about 520 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas. It is forecast to turn northwest Monday, then west or west-southwest Tuesday through early Thursday.
“There is an increasing risk of coastal flooding, tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rainfall, rough surf, and beach erosion along much of the southeastern United States coast, the Florida east coast, and portions of the central and northwestern Bahamas beginning in the early to middle part of this week,” the hurricane center reported on Sunday.
On Tuesday, which is Election Day, South Florida voters will likely begin feeling the effects as the system brings moisture up from the Caribbean Sea.
Barry Baxter, a meteorologist for National Weather Service Miami, encouraged South Floridians to stay vigilant.
“We are technically still in hurricane season until the end of this month,” he said. “So don’t let your guard down just because it’s in November. It’s rare we get them this time of year, but we could still get them.”
Forecasters are also monitoring a stormy area of low pressure located 650 east of Bermuda early Monday. Forecasters said it could still become a short-lived tropical depression or tropical storm as early as today before it is hindered by upper-level winds and a cold front.
The system near Bermuda had a 60% chance of developing in the next two to five days, according to the hurricane center, down from 70% on Sunday.
There have been two major hurricanes, meaning Category 3 or above, so far this season: Fiona and Ian.
The next named storm to form would be Owen.
NOAA has predicted at least four more hurricanes will form before hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30.