Donald Trump’s Florida resort is under threat from Hurricane Nicole, which is closing in on Florida’s Atlantic shoreline.
The storm is forecast to bring downpours, fierce winds, and a treacherous surge of ocean surf to coastal areas still reeling from the last major storm six weeks ago.
US officials ordered evacuations that included the Mar-a-Lago club, the former president’s club and home that is a quarter-mile inland from the ocean.
The resort’s security office hung up on Wednesday when an Associated Press reporter asked whether the club was being evacuated and there was no sign of evacuation by early afternoon. The Washington Post, citing an advisor to Trump, says the former president has no plans to leave.
Upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane as it thrashed the Bahamas on Wednesday, Nicole brought sustained winds of up to 75 mph as it approached the east coast of Florida north of Miami, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A hurricane warning was posted for a 240-mile expanse of coastline running from the affluent resort city of Boca Raton north to the Volusia-Flagler county line near Daytona Beach, the headquarters of NASCAR.
The warning also covers the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where Nasa’s towering, next-generation moon rocket stands exposed to the elements and anchored to its launch pad to ride out the storm.
"Dozens upon dozens" of oceanside buildings in Volusia County, including high-rise condominiums, have been declared structurally unsafe since Hurricane Ian, with some now "in imminent danger of collapsing" from further shoreline erosion, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
Volusia is one of several coastal counties where officials issued mandatory evacuation orders or advised residents in oceanside communities and barrier islands to seek higher ground.
"This is the last window of opportunity to secure your families and to secure your properties and possibly save some lives," Chitwood said in a video posted online on Wednesday.
State officials opened 15 emergency shelters across the region, activated 600 National Guard troops and placed 1,600 utility workers on standby to restore power knocked out by the storm.
More than a dozen school districts were closed on Wednesday and more than 20 school districts across the state were scheduled to be shuttered today. Orlando International Airport announced it was ceasing commercial operations on Wednesday afternoon.
Even before reaching hurricane strength, the storm unleashed "extensive flooding" across much of the Bahamas, including the islands of Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Andros and the Abacos, National Emergency Management Agency chief Captain Stephen Russell told a news conference.
The storm was declared a hurricane Wednesday evening as it made its first landfall on Grand Bahama island in the north-western corner of the Atlantic West Indies archipelago.
Nicole was expected to diminish to tropical-storm status once it moves over Florida, then churn north over the next two days through Georgia and into the Carolinas.
While some "storm tourists" in Florida ventured out to glimpse the roiling surf, pose for cyclone "selfies" or capture a video clip of the gathering storm on Wednesday, many spent the day battening down property and stocking up on supplies.
"We have had a lot of flooding within the last couple of storms," Leanne Hansard, 53, a Daytona Beach resident, said as she was boarding up windows to her family’s insurance office. "Florida is surrounded by water on all sides, so eventually you’re going to have water."