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Tropical Storm Nate spurs Hurricane Watch in parts of northern Gulf Coast

Posted at 8:10 AM, Oct 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-06 08:41:16-04

UPDATE -- A hurricane watch was issued for parts of the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts Thursday night as Nate, barely a tropical storm as of late Thursday night, is expected to strengthen and move north.

The hurricane watch includes the New Orleans metro area, an area vulnerable to flooding.  

Nate is packing top sustained winds of 40 MPH, which is barely enough to be considered a tropical storm. As Nate moves away from the Central American coast, it will enter the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. 

Before entering the Gulf of Mexico, Nate is expected to hit the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula as a strong tropical storm on Friday. Nate is then expected to race across the Gulf of Mexico, striking the Central Gulf Coast as a hurricane by Sunday. 

The National Hurricane Center said late Thursday that the hurricane should gradually strengthen over the next few days. Although not officially expected to make landfall as a major hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said it could not rule out rapid intensification. 

The National Hurricane Center said that an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be investigating Nate overnight to get a better handle on the storm's intensity and structure.

"Nate is forecast to reach the northern Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane, and the threat of direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall is increasing from Louisiana through the western Florida Panhandle," the National Hurricane Center said. 

Nate could be the third hurricane to make a direct landfall on the Gulf Coast. In August, Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast a Category 4 hurricane. In September, Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys as a Category 4 before coming on shore near Naples, Florida as a Category 3. 

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Tropical Depression 16 has strengthened to Tropical Storm Nate as of Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Nate has winds of 40 mph and is moving NW at 8 mph. Nate is currently near the coast of Nicaragua, in the SW Caribbean Sea and is impacting the Central Americas with heavy rain, strong winds, mudslides and flooding. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for parts of Honduras and Nicaragua. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for parts of Mexico.

Nate is expected to maintain tropical storm intensity over the next couple of days and eventually strengthen into a category 1 hurricane when it moves into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend. According to the current forecast track, a landfall is expected along the southern coast of Louisiana, Alabama or the Florida Panhandle. Currently, Southwest Florida is not in that cone of uncertainty and a direct impact is not expected in the region.