Florida Airports and Theme Parks Shut Down as Storm Nicole Closes In

Though a lower rated storm than Ian, which struck Florida in September, Nicole is much wider, with dangerous winds encompassing a broad area.
Though a lower rated storm than Ian, which struck Florida in September, Nicole is much wider, with dangerous winds encompassing a broad area.

Four counties in Florida are under mandatory evacuation orders. Residents in certain zones of Nassau, Palm Beach, Flagler, and Volusia counties have all been told to leave, ahead of likely flooding coming from storm Nicole.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club resort, where the former president held an election night party on Tuesday, is included in the Palm Beach County mandatory evacuation area, according to a report from the Associated Press.

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Zones in eight other counties are also under voluntary or recommended evacuation orders, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management. Orlando International Airport, Sanford International Airport, Palm Beach International Airport, Daytona Beach International Airport, Disney World, and Universal Orlando have all announced early closures on Wednesday, in preparation for the storm.

Nicole is currently centered over Great Abaco Island in The Bahamas, as a strong tropical storm with sustained winds of 70 mph. There, hundreds of people evacuated their homes and sought shelter on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported flooding and power outages on the island.

Next, the storm is forecast to move over Grand Bahama Island this evening. It is projected to continue strengthening into a rare, November Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s easy coast tonight, where multiple hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings are in effect according to the most recent National Hurricane Center advisory.

Once over the continental U.S., forecasters expect the storm to weaken moving across Florida and other southeastern states on Thursday. NHC says Nicole is likely to become a post-tropical cyclone by Friday afternoon.

Though Nicole is rated much lower than the Category 4 Hurricane Ian that battered Florida in late September and early October, the NHC warns that this week’s storm is large. Tropical-storm-force winds extend out nearly 500 miles from the storm’s center, particularly to the north. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that wide scale power outages are a risk, in a Tallahassee press conference.

In addition to the winds, Nicole could bring significant flooding through storm surges and rainfall across Florida and the eastern U.S.. A storm surge watch is in effect as far north as South Santee River in South Carolina, and parts of eastern North Carolina are under a coast flood advisory. Storm surges of between three to five feet are projected to impact eastern Florida and Georgia, from North Palm Beach to Altamaha Sound. And, in western Florida, from the Anclote River to Ochlockonee River. Up to eight inches of rain could fall in pockets around the state.

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