Florida's Atlantic Coast Ports Get Ready for Storm Nicole

Satellite image of Subtropical Storm Nicole over the Atlantic
Image courtesy NOAA

Published Nov 7, 2022 3:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is preparing ports along the Atlantic coast of Florida for the arrival of Subtropical Storm Nicole, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by mid-week. 

The trackline for Nicole is still uncertain, but the storm's diameter is wide and it will likely affect a large swathe of coastline in Florida, the Bahamas, Georgia and South Carolina. It is currently located about 400 nm to the north of the Dominican Republic, moving westward towards the northern Bahamas and gaining intensity. The National Hurricane Center expects it to become a tropical storm within 36 hours and further intensify as it approaches Florida, developing hurricane-force winds of 65 knots before landfall late Wednesday.

The storm is broad enough that significant impacts are expected to reach well beyond the center, particulary to the north of the eye. Aside from high winds, Nicole will bring flash floods from heavy rain and a substantial storm surge, intensified by the timing of local high tides. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Atlantic coast of South and Central Florida, and the storm surge watch extends up to Georgia. Areas of Florida's eastern coastline and the eastern-facing shores of the Bahamas could see a surge of 3-5 feet, accompanied by "large and destructive waves."

In response, the Coast Guard has set Condition Whiskey for Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Jaxport and smaller ports in between. Port operators must secure loose debris, limit container stacks to four high and review their storm-response plans. Ships over 500 GT must prepare to leave port or submit a storm mooring plan to the Coast Guard for approval. The advisory anticipates a shutdown in advance of the storm's arrival. 

The Coast Guard noted that drawbridges will be closed in the down position before the arrival of tropical storm force winds, limiting the time window for some transits. 

Out of an "abundance of caution," the state of Florida has declared a state of emergency for 34 counties in the storm's expected path. “While this storm does not, at this time, appear that it will become much stronger, I urge all Floridians to be prepared and to listen to announcements from local emergency management officials," said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A tropical storm at this time of year is unusual for Florida's Atlantic Coast, according to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell. Only two other storms on record have arrived in November in the area: the Miami Hurricane of 1935 and an unnamed storm in 1946.