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What to expect from Tropical Storm Nicole after landfall

Satellite image of Tropical Storm Nicole
NOAA

Sustained winds of 30 mph are expected throughout the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota Thursday. We could see wind gusts of from 50 to 55 mph.

Update: Tropical Storm Nicole made landfall near Vero Beach on Thursday around 3 a.m.

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Tropical Storm Nicole is picking up intensity as it nears Florida's Atlantic coast. It could become a hurricane by the time it makes landfall overnight. The path is taking it closer to the greater Tampa Bay area, and we could see heavy winds and rains starting overnight and most of Thursday.

WUSF's Steve Newborn talked with Megan Borowski, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, about what we can expect to see from Nicole.

Megan, this storm looks like it's taking a slight southerly dip. So it looks like it might be affecting more areas to the south than was originally forecast?

BOROWSKI: Right. The forecast track had a more northwestward track a few days ago, but now it's more on a westerly track. So we're looking at a landfall near Vero Beach and Boca Raton — essentially in West Palm Beach — and tracking northwestward. It's probably just going to skirt just east to the Tampa Bay metro area, and then hook into the Big Bend, finally scooting northward into Georgia and the Carolinas on Friday.

So what can we expect to see in the Tampa Bay area when we wake up Thursday morning?

Megan Borowski
FPREN
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Megan Borowski

You'll be likely on the left-hand side of the center in the morning as you're waking up and the sun comes up.

Expect on and off periods of heavy rain. And on top of that, we're looking at pretty strong wind gusts — tropical storm forces will extend very far from the center of the storm as it is.

But we can't rule out for long periods of maybe 35 to 45 mph sustained winds, especially closer to the center of the track across interior Central and South Florida.

So the storm is picking up speed a little more than was originally forecast. Is wind or rain expected to be the biggest threat from Nicole?

Honestly, it's going to depend on your location. The good news is this is supposed to be a fast mover. It's going to be picked up by a trough in the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere and that'll kind of usher it along through the southeast in the mid Atlantic. So in that respect that will detract from rainfall accumulations.

We're looking at locally four to six inches (of rain) close to Lake Okeechobee, but widespread across the Florida peninsula two to four, maybe locally higher amounts, but that is substantially less than what the I-4 corridor got at the end of September from Ian, so that's good news.

But I think the big thing with this storm is the tropical storm force winds extend far out from its center, so even though you might not be right near the eyewall, we're looking at strong winds impacting areas like North Florida and then west toward the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota throughout the day (Thursday).

Sustained winds of 30 mph are expected and we could get gusts 50 to 55 mph. So that's nothing to shake a stick at.

Some areas got really drenched recently by Hurricane Ian, particularly areas to the south of the storm's path. Can those areas expect to see more flooding, particularly on places like the Peace River?

River flooding is not going to be a as huge of a concern as it was from Ian. But we are going to see localized flash flooding, especially in those areas that get several rounds of those heavy downpours. But it should not be as big and catastrophic as it was with Ian. So that's the silver lining there.

So Megan, the bottom line is even though this isn't expected to be nearly as devastating as the end we really have to be prepared for Nicole?

We certainly do, because each storm is different. Each storm is unique. Each storm has its own hazards.

Nicole winds.png

Updated: November 10, 2022 at 5:04 AM EST
This story has been updated with Tropical Storm Nicole making landfall near Vero Beach.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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