Hurricane bears down on Florida: Trump estate advised to evacuate

A Florida-bound storm has strengthened into Hurricane Nicole after pounding the Bahamas and state officials ordered evacuations that included former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

It’s a rare November hurricane for storm-weary Florida, where only two hurricanes have made landfall since recordkeeping began in 1853 — the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and Hurricane Kate in 1985.

At 10 p.m. EST, about 75 miles (125 kilometers) east-northeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said. Its maximum sustained winds were recorded at 75 mph (120 kph), and the system was moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).

The sprawling storm became a hurricane as it slammed into Grand Bahama, having made landfall just hours earlier on Great Abaco island as a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Nicole is the first storm to hit the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm that devastated the archipelago in 2019.

In the Bahamas, officials said that more than 860 people were in more than two dozen shelters. Extensive flooding, downed trees and power and water outages were reported in the archipelago’s northwest region.

Residents in several Florida counties — Flagler, Palm Beach, Martin and Volusia — were ordered to evacuate. Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club and home, is in one of the Florida evacuation zones, built about a quarter-mile inland from the ocean. The main buildings sit on a small rise that is about 15 feet (4.6 meters) above sea level and the property has survived numerous stronger hurricanes since it was built nearly a century ago. The resort’s security office hung up Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked whether the club was being evacuated and there was no sign of evacuation by early afternoon.

There is no penalty for ignoring an evacuation order, but rescue crews will not respond if it puts their members at risk.