TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As Tropical Storm Nicole bears down on Florida, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration and ordered federal assistance to the state.

As of 10 a.m., a weather advisory still shows max wind speeds could be as high as 70 miles per hour, meaning Nicole is a Tropical Storm, not a hurricane. The forecast shows the storm could strengthen to a hurricane before it makes landfall overnight.

The president authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to manage disaster relief efforts aimed at “alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act,” according to an announcement from the White House.

Reports Wednesday morning from the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict the tropical storm could become a hurricane Wednesday evening or early on Thursday morning as it approaches Florida.

Before the Biden disaster declaration approval, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 34 Florida counties, including Hillsborough, Sarasota, Pasco, Polk, Manatee, and Highlands counties and urged Floridians to prepare for the storm, according to previous reports on WFLA.com.

Evacuations have begun in multiple low-lying areas in Florida and on barrier islands in the storm’s path, and some Tampa Bay school districts have closed in preparation of Tropical Storm Nicole’s arrival. The storm is expected to arrive in Tampa Bay on Thursday.

“Flooding is not a huge concern with Nicole because the ground has had time to dry out since the flooding seen with Hurricane Ian. River levels are all back to normal and any rain that does fall, will first soak into the ground before moving toward the rivers. The Tampa Bay area will also see far less rain than Hurricane Ian brought,” Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Amanda Holly said.

The following counties are included in the president’s declaration due to their potential to see impacts from the storm.

  • Alachua
  • Bradford
  • Brevard
  • Broward
  • Charlotte
  • Citrus
  • Clay
  • Collier
  • Desoto
  • Dixie
  • Duval
  • Flagler
  • Gilchrist
  • Glades
  • Hardee
  • Hendry
  • Hernando
  • Highlands
  • Hillsborough
  • Indian River
  • Jefferson
  • Lake
  • Lee
  • Levy
  • Manatee
  • Marion
  • Martin
  • Miami-Dade
  • Nassau
  • Okeechobee
  • Orange
  • Osceola
  • Palm Beach
  • Pasco
  • Pinellas
  • Polk
  • Putnam
  • Sarasota
  • Seminole
  • St. Johns
  • St. Lucie
  • Sumter
  • Taylor
  • Volusia
  • Wakulla
  • The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida