Tropical Storm Nicole has displaced people from their homes in the Bahamas and threatened to become a rare November hurricane in Florida, closing theme parks and airports and triggering evacuation orders, including the former US Navy’s Mar-a-Lago Club President Donald Trump.
Countless people took shelter in the northwestern Bahamas from the approaching storm, which had already washed seawater across the streets of barrier islands in Florida.
The US National Hurricane Center said the center of the spreading storm made landfall on Great Abaco Island around noon with estimated maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.
“We predict it will become a hurricane as it approaches the northwestern Bahamas and remain a hurricane as it approaches the east coast of Florida,” said Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, previously On Wednesday.
Nicole is the first storm to hit the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm that devastated the archipelago in 2019 before hitting Florida.
In the Bahamas, officials said more than 520 people were in more than two dozen temporary shelters.
Flooding and power outages were reported in Grand Abaco.
Authorities were particularly concerned about a large Haitian community in Great Abaco that was destroyed by Dorian and has since grown from 50 acres (20 hectares) to 200 acres (80 hectares).
“Don’t put yourself in danger,” said Zhivago Dames, Deputy Police Commissioner for Information, as he urged everyone to stay indoors.
“Our first responders are out there. However, they will not risk their lives.”
In Florida, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that storm surge from Tropical Storm Nicole had already breached the seawall along Indian River Drive, which runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office also said seawater breached part of a road on Hutchinson Island.
Residents in several Florida counties — Flagler, Palm Beach, Martin and Volusia — have been ordered to evacuate such barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes.
Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s club and home, is in one of those evacuation zones built about a quarter mile inland from the ocean.
The main buildings are on a small rise some 15 feet above sea level, and the property has survived numerous major hurricanes since it was built nearly a century ago.
The resort’s security office hung up on Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked if the club was being evacuated and there were no signs of an evacuation by early afternoon.
There is no penalty for ignoring an evacuation order, but rescue workers will not respond if doing so puts their members at risk.
Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort said they will close early Wednesday and are unlikely to reopen Thursday as planned.
Palm Beach International Airport was closed Wednesday morning, and Daytona Beach International Airport said it would cease operations.
Orlando International Airport, the seventh busiest in the US, was scheduled to close at 4 p.m.
Further south, officials said Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport were experiencing some flight delays and cancellations, but both planned to remain open.
At a news conference in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis said winds were the number one concern and there could be significant power outages, but that 16,000 linemen were on standby to restore power, along with 600 Guardsmen and seven search and rescue teams.
“It’s going to affect large parts of the state of Florida throughout the day,” Mr. DeSantis said of the storm’s expected landfall.
Nearly two dozen school districts closed schools because of the storm, and 15 shelters have opened along Florida’s east coast, the governor said.
A state of emergency has been declared in 45 of Florida’s 67 counties.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Floridanans should expect possible tornadoes, currents and flash floods.
The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Philip Brave Davis, attending the UN climate summit Cop27 drew attention to the link between storms and climate change.
“Storms have always existed, but as the planet warms from carbon emissions, storms are increasing in intensity and frequency,” he said.
“For those in Grand Bahama and Abaco, I know that facing another storm is especially difficult for you.”
At 1 p.m., the storm was about 175 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, and moving west at 12 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.
Tropical storm winds extended as far as 460 miles from the center in some directions.
It could strengthen into a rare November hurricane before hitting Florida, where only two have made landfall since records began in 1853 — the 1935 Yankee hurricane and Hurricane Kate in 1985.
New alerts and vigils have been issued for many parts of Florida, including the southwest Gulf Coast, which was devastated by Hurricane Ian, which struck September 28 as a Category 4 storm.
The storm destroyed homes and damaged crops, including orange groves, across the state – damage that many are still grappling with.
In Florida, the “combination of a dangerous storm surge and the high tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be inundated by rising water moving inland from the coast,” the hurricane center said.
Mr Brown said the storm will affect a large part of the state.
“Because the system is so large, almost all of Florida’s east coast, with the exception of the extreme southeastern portion and the Keys, will receive tropical gale force winds,” he said.
The storm is expected to move into south Georgia via central and north Florida on Thursday, forecasters said.
It was then forecast to move over the Carolinas on Friday.
“We will be concerned about rain when we arrive later in the week in parts of the Southeastern United States and southern Appalachia where there could be flooding and flash flooding with those rains,” Brown said.
Early Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida and ordered federal assistance to complement state, tribal and local response efforts to the approaching storm.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still responding to those in need from Hurricane Ian.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/tropical-storm-nicole-forces-evacuations-in-bahamas-and-florida-42132340.html Tropical Storm Nicole forces evacuations in Bahamas and Florida