Just a few weeks after Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc through much of Florida, particularly in the Fort Myers area, forecasters are keeping a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Nicole, which appears to be headed to some of the same areas hit by Ian.
The National Weather Service reports that tropical cyclone Nicole continues to approach the Florida peninsula and is forecast to strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall along the Florida east coast. After landfall, the center of the storm is forecast to track northwest across Florida before curving northeast and moving up along the East Coast by this weekend.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin early Wednesday for much of Florida and coastal Georgia and Hurricane conditions are expected for portions of the Southeast coast and east-central Florida beginning late Wednesday or Wednesday night. Tropical Storm Warnings and Hurricane Warnings are in effect for these impact areas. Storm surge and damaging waves are expected for coastal areas from south Florida to southern South Carolina and could be particularly dangerous in Florida and Georgia. Heavy rainfall is expected for Wednesday and Thursday across the Florida peninsula, and flash flooding and river flooding, especially along the St. Johns River, are likely.
Heavy rainfall will spread northwards into the Southeast late Thursday through Saturday. In addition to strong winds, surge, and heavy rainfall, a few tornadoes will be possible in Florida Wednesday and eastern Georgia and South Carolina Thursday. To follow and learn more about this storm, see nhc.noaa.gov.
How Railroads are Reacting
The Miami Herald reports that Tri-Rail, Miami’s commuter rail system, will cancel services late Wednesday afternoon, and remain closed on Thursday until the storm has passed and damage can be assessed.
Likewise, Brightline, south Florida’s high-speed intercity service, plans to shut down late Wednesday afternoon and see what happens on Thursday before making decisions about resuming part or all service on the railroad, which currently operates between West Palm Beach and Miami.
SunRail, the Orlando commuter rail service, completely shut down service Wednesday, and will make decisions on Thursday after the storm passes through on what portion(s) of service it can re-open and when.
Amtrak has also announced schedule changes for its Florida Trains. On Tuesday, the agency’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor trains we both stopped in Jacksonville instead of continuing their southbound journeys to Miami. On Wednesday, the northbound trains will depart from Jacksonville, while Thursday’s schedule will see the southbound Silver Star terminated in Jacksonville, while the southbound Silver Meteor will be canceled altogether. More detailed information is available from Amtrak.
CSX has issued a customer service advisory, which reads as follows:
“CSX is closely monitoring a storm system that is expected to intensify into Hurricane Nicole before making landfall on Florida’s east coast late Wednesday or early Thursday.
“Currently a subtropical storm, Nicole is forecast to bring category 1 hurricane winds to the central Florida coast and track across the peninsula with heavy rainfall and potential flooding.”
The railroad added, “CSX is taking precautionary measures and will provide further updates as warranted. The CSX Customer Solutions team is available to provide details and answer questions regarding shipments. Call the Customer Solutions team at 1-877-ShipCSX (1-877-744-7279). For Carload assistance choose option 2 from the sub-menu and then 1, 5 to speak with a representative. For Intermodal assistance, choose 2 from the sub menu and then 2, 2 to speak with a representative. You may also submit a Shipment Problem Resolution request via www.shipcsx.com.”
RT&S spoke with Robert Fay, the Executive Vice President of the Seminole Gulf Railway, which has operations in and near Fort Myers and Sarasota, and he told us “we have our normal precautions in place, including relocating and securing equipment. Faye added that he’s been told that the Peace River could flood again, just like it did in Hurricane Ian. The impact of Ian on the Seminole Gulf is the subject of a feature article in our November issue, beginning on page 9.
Neither Florida East Coast nor Norfolk Southern could be reached for comment. We will update this article when we hear from them.