MIAMI, Nov 9 — Tropical Storm Nicole was expected to gain strength and become a hurricane today as it approached Florida’s Atlantic Coast, threatening to batter the region with a dangerous storm surge, downpours and strong winds.
The storm, packing winds of 70 miles per hour (110 km per hour), was about 60 miles (97 km) east of Great Abaco Island and 240 miles (386 km) west of Palm Beach, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said in an early morning advisory.
The storm, traveling at 13 miles per hour (21 km per hour), was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane as it moved near or over the Bahamas by midday today before it reaches Florida’s east coast later during the night, the hurricane centre said.
Local media posted footage on social media sites showing white cap waves pushing inland along coastal beaches under ominous-looking skies. Conditions were expected deteriorate throughout the day as parts of the region were forecast to get 6 inches (15 cm) of rain and 100 mph (160 km per hour) wind gusts along with storm surge of 2 to 5 feet (0.6 to 1.5 metres), the National Weather Service said as it issued various warnings.
“The storm surge will be accompanied by large and damaging winds. Residents in the warning area should listen to local officials,” the service added.
Several counties along the Florida coast issued mandatory and voluntary evacuations orders for residents who live near the coast and on barrier islands and opened shelters at schools and community centers.
Many school districts and universities in the region canceled classes for the rest of the week while Orlando International Airport announced it was ceasing commercial operations at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) today.
The storm was forecast to move into southern Georgia on Thursday before moving into the Carolinas on Friday.
In the Bahamas, some residents evacuated homes as winds and flooding affected areas including the island of Abaco.
Ann Wilmore, 60, of Dundas Town evacuated her trailer and sought refuge in a nearby house.
“I’m monitoring the weather very closely,” Wilmore said by phone.
The Bahamas Department of Meteorology said there were reports of a nearly 4-foot (1.2 metres) storm surge north of the town of Treasure Cay in Abaco.
Videos made by Abaco residents showed that the yards of some homes were covered in water, though the buildings themselves did not appear to be flooded. — Reuters