The following message is from Will Lanxton, State Meteorologist:
Changes since yesterday:
• The entire coast of Georgia is under a Tropical Storm Warning, including all of inland Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn, and Camden Counties through Friday evening.
• A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for Grady, Thomas, Brooks, Lowndes, Lanier, Echols, and Clinch Counties through early Friday morning.
• The tornado threat has increased across southeastern Georgia. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Slight Risk (level 2 of 5) for tomorrow (Thursday).
• 2 to 4 inches of rainfall accumulation is now forecast for most of Georgia. The threat for flash flooding should remain generally south of the I-20 corridor.
Nicole is currently a high-end tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Any further intensification will raise it to hurricane strength, which is expected prior to landfall near West Palm Beach tonight. Nicole will weaken over the Florida Peninsula tomorrow and is expected to be a weakening tropical storm as it moves into southern Georgia tomorrow evening. Rain bands will start to move into southern and southeastern Georgia tomorrow morning and overspread Georgia from south to north through Thursday evening. By Friday morning, Nicole should weaken into a tropical depression with the center of the storm moving northeastward through Georgia. The system should clear out of Georgia by Friday evening with much colder weather moving in this weekend.
It is important to note that Nicole’s wind field is quite large, and gusty winds will begin to overspread much of Georgia ahead of the system today and continue through Friday. A Wind Advisory will likely be issued for much of Georgia. Wind gusts of 20-30 mph are expected in North and Central Georgia with 30-40 mph expected south of a Columbus to Macon to Augusta line. Farther south in Georgia and along the coast, gusts of 40-50 mph are possible tomorrow as the main system moves through. Wind gusts of up to 55 mph are possible in all areas under a Tropical Storm Warning. Winds will continue to be gusty on the backside of the system overnight into Friday before subsiding after the system exits Friday evening.
Strong onshore flow and astronomical high tides will continue to produce significant coastal impacts today and tomorrow. Moderate coastal flooding, significant beach erosion, life-threatening rip currents, and dangerous sea and surf conditions will all be possible along the entire Georgia coast today through Friday morning.
• For Coastal Camden and Glynn Counties: A Storm Surge Warning is still in effect for the potential for 3-5 feet of storm surge above ground level within surge prone areas during high tides through Friday evening. This qualifies as life-threatening storm surge inundation potential.
• For Coastal McIntosh, Liberty, Bryan, and Chatham Counties: A Storm Surge Watch is still in effect for the potential for 2-4 feet of storm surge above ground level within surge prone areas during high tides through Friday evening.
The tornado threat has increased over southeastern Georgia as reflected in the Storm Prediction Center’s Slight Risk (level 2 of 5) outlined for tornadoes on Thursday through Friday morning. A few tornadoes will be possible in Nicole’s outer rain bands, particularly on the eastern side of the system as it moves through Georgia tomorrow.
Heavy rainfall is possible in some of the stronger bands and near the core of the system as it moves through Georgia. 2-4 inches of total rainfall will be possible across much of the state. The threat for flash flooding is not significant but will be possible if any strong bands train across an area. The Weather Prediction Center has approximately the southern half of Georgia under a Slight Risk (level 2 of 4) for excessive rainfall tomorrow through Friday morning.
Confidence is still high for coastal impacts and continues to increase for inland impacts. Please continue to monitor forecast updates from the National Hurricane Center, your local National Weather Service office, and reliable media outlets throughout the event.