This hurricane season started with a simmer. It’s going out with a bang.
Near the end of October, there had been just 11 named storms this season, fewer than forecasters had predicted.
On Monday, though, the 14th named storm formed in the Atlantic — Subtropical Storm Nicole. In a few days, the storm will likely reach hurricane strength as it approaches landfall on the east coast of Florida.
Nicole could bring as much as 6 inches of rain to some parts of the Tampa Bay area, where tropical storm-force winds may begin as early as Wednesday and stretch into Friday, said Paul Close, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay.
The uptick in storms is unusual for this time of year, when the Atlantic waters are beginning to cool. In fact, it’s the first time in recorded history that three named storms have formed between Halloween and Nov. 7, according Philip Klotzbach, a professor in the Atmospheric Science Department at Colorado State University.
Nicole was hundreds of miles east of the Bahamas on Monday evening. The storm is huge, with 40 mph winds stretching 310 miles from its center, meaning all of Florida will likely be affected by strong winds later this week.
The storm prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday to declare a state of emergency in 34 counties, including Hillsborough and Pasco in the Tampa Bay area.
“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,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the trajectory and strength of this storm as it moves towards Florida.”
The entire east coast of Florida on Monday was either under hurricane or tropical storm watches. The hurricane watches were concentrated on the southeast coast of Florida, while tropical storm watches were mainly on the northeast coast.
No watches or warnings had been issued for the Tampa Bay area as of Monday evening.
A storm surge warning also was in effect for the entire east coast of Florida. Storm surge is a particularly deadly aspect of storms, and is a driving factor when communities begin calling for evacuations.
Close, the National Weather Service meteorologist, said it was too soon on Monday to say if the Tampa Bay area will experience storm surge or severe flooding.
As a subtropical storm, Nicole had elements of both typical low pressure systems and tropical systems like hurricanes, and can strengthen into a tropical storm, which forecasters expect it will do this week.
Forecasters said hurricane conditions were possible across parts of the northwestern Bahamas and east-central Florida starting on Wednesday.
“It’s not out of the question for Nicole to reach hurricane strength, especially given how warm the waters are in the vicinity of the Bahamas,” the Hurricane Center said. Hurricanes have wind speeds of at least 74 mph.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had predicted at least 14 named storms for the 2022 season. In late October, it appeared the season would fall short of that prediction, but the three storms to have been named since then, including Nicole, mean that prediction proved correct.
And there’s still a few weeks to go until the end of the season on Nov. 30.
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