Before Tropical Storm Nicole makes landfall on the east coast of Florida on Wednesday night, forecasters now expect it to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the storm was moving west at 12 miles per hour about 210 miles east of West Palm Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“While Nicole is above warm sea surface temperatures, a combination of shear and dry air entrainment will likely allow only gradual intensification,” the NHC said. “However, this gradual intensification should allow Nicole to become a hurricane later in the day as it moves across the northwest Bahamas.”
The storm is expected to hit the state’s east coast with winds of at least 74 mph and weaken slightly as it moves across the peninsula, before turning northwest on Thursday.
Between late Wednesday and Thursday morning, forecasters say the Tampa Bay area will see winds of 30 to 40 mph, gusting up to 50 mph, along with 3 to 5 inches of rain.
“Nicole will produce heavy rain today through Thursday over the Florida Peninsula,” the NHC added. “Flash and urban flooding will be possible in parts of the Florida peninsula, as well as flooding on the St. Johns River.”
With most of central Florida still well within the cone of uncertainty, local officials are urging residents to make final preparations for the storm by Wednesday afternoon.
This story originally appeared at Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.