Date: Wednesday, November 9th, 2022
Tropical Storm Nicole, now bigger than Florida, will tighten and strengthen before reaching the state by early Thursday, delivering a storm surge that may reach as far as the Carolinas.
“It’s a really big storm,” said Nick Carapezza, a meteorologist with Maxar Technologies, who estimates Nicole at about 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) across as it bears down on the Bahamas. Its diameter with hurricane-strength winds will likely be closer to 200 miles when it makes landfall.
The storm was about 395 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, at 4 p.m. local time and its top wind speeds have strengthened to 65 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. It’s expected to bring as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain to the Bahamas and portions of Florida. Nicole would be upgraded to hurricane status once its winds reach 74 mph.
Storm surge will be a bigger threat, as the vast system pushes as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water onto the coast. Surge watches and warnings extend from Florida to the South Santee River in South Carolina.
“It’s unusual in terms of how much of the Florida coast will be affected,” Carapezza said. The surge will get an extra boost from the full moon, which increases tides.
Nicole may cause more than $3 billion of damage, largely because so much of the coastline is at risk from the surge, according to Rick Murnane, chief executive officer of Kinetic Analysis Corp. About 20 million people will be affected by the winds, and more than 800,000 live in the surge zones. For comparison, Hurricane Ian that struck the state in late September was estimated to cost about $71 billion -- including lost economic output from tourism and damaged infrastructure and homes -- according to Enki Holdings LLC.
The storm will likely make landfall between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Thursday, north of Palm Beach, home to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. It will cross Florida and enter the Gulf of Mexico, and then turn to the northeast and make a second landfall on the state’s west coast sometime Friday, according to Maxar.
Nicole’s massive size stems from the fact that it’s an amalgam of separate systems that joined forces under just the right conditions in the Atlantic Ocean to form a behemoth, according to AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter. A series of rain storms that rolled over Kentucky and the Carolinas ran into tropical moisture from south of Puerto Rico once over the ocean. Fueled by warm Atlantic waters and an area of high pressure to the north, Nicole took shape.
“It was a couple of pieces that came together that congealed into a very large system,” Porter said in an interview.
It will dump rain on parts of the state that are still dealing with flooding caused by Hurricane Ian, according to Brad Harvey, a Maxar meteorologist.
“This certainly isn’t going to help,” he said.