Bahamas prepares to evacuate residents as Tropical Storm Nicole approaches

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – A hurricane watch has gone into effect for northwestern Bahamas as subtropical storm, Nicole, was moving towards the Caribbean Community (Caricom) country on Monday with no change in strength.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that the storm, located about 465 miles, east of the northwesten Bahamas had maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (mph) moving towards the northwest near nine mph.

“A slower northwestward motion is expected later this afternoon through tonight. A turn toward the west or west-southwest is then forecast to begin by Tuesday night and that motion should continue through early Thursday,” the NHC said in its latest bulletin.

“On the forecast track, the centre of Nicole will approach the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday and Tuesday night, move near or over those islands on Wednesday, and approach the east coast of Florida Wednesday night,” it added.

The NHC is predicting high gusts and gradual strengthening is forecast during the next few days. It said Nicole is forecast to be at or near hurricane intensity by Wednesday night while it is moving near or over the northwestern Bahamas.

In a statement, Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper said, “Please do not take this storm lightly.

“Nicole poses an imminent threat to the islands under the warning. Everyone must prepare for the worst.”

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director, Captain Stephen Russell, who is urging residents in vulnerable areas to leave their homes when called to do so, said an evacuation order will likely be issued for parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama later on Monday.

The islands in the northwest Bahamas including Grand Bahama, Abaco, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Eleuthera, New Providence and Andros have all been placed under a hurricane watch.

“Plans are in motion to evacuate those persons in Sweeting’s Cay,” Russel told a news conference, adding “we’ve done it before for a category one storm.”

He said ferries and buses will be moving people from Sweeting’s Cay to the mainland.

“Evacuation orders will be issued later this afternoon once you see the 2.00 pm advisory. We will announce when we want the evacuation to commence,” Russell said, urging residents to take the warnings seriously.

“We cannot go manhandling persons off. I cannot ask emergency responders to go yuck persons from areas that have been declared evacuation zones, but we can encourage persons as best we can and their family members.

“If all else fails, we simply have to say, ‘Look here, let us know who is your next of kin’. We cannot go wrangling with persons to move. We’ve been through this many years and we have seen the damage coming from these storms.

“We’re losing lives because of storm surges coming from these systems. We don’t have time to go and try and beg and plead for persons to move. I cannot send back emergency responders after you refuse then change your mind,” Russell added.

The NHC warned that Nicole is expected to produce across the northwest Bahamas, and the central and northern portions of the Florida Peninsula, rainfall of up to four inches, with local maximum of six inches.

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