Tropical Storm Nate will threaten Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend
AccuWeather reports Tropical Depression 16 has strengthened to Tropical Storm Nate near the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and will threaten part of the southern United States as a hurricane this weekend.
“Nate will move northward over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday and make landfall along the U.S. upper Gulf coast on Sunday,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.
Nate is likely to make landfall somewhere from the Florida Panhandle to southeastern Louisiana. The exact point of landfall will be determined once the storm begins to move north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
“In all likelihood, this storm will impact areas not severely impacted by Harvey or Irma. The extent of the damage will depend, of course, on the precise path and whether the storm intensifies beyond a Category 1 storm,” AccuWeather Founder, President and Chairman Dr. Joel N. Myers said.
Only if Nate tracks much farther west than currently forecast may heavy rain and damaging winds reach Harvey-ravaged Texas and southwestern Louisiana.
Similarly, only if Nate travels much farther east than currently forecast would flooding rain and high winds reach Imra-ravaged areas of Florida.
How serious the impacts are and exactly which areas are hardest hit by winds, waves and flooding will depend on the strength and track of the system.
“Since the system will be moving over very warm waters, we could quickly have a powerful hurricane on our hands,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
The most likely area for rapid strengthening will be the stretch of water north of Honduras and east of Belize. Another area where the storm may quickly ramp up in intensity is over the south-central Gulf of Mexico.
A hurricane that reaches Category 1 status has the potential to reach Category 2 or 3 (major hurricane) status in a matter of hours.
Vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas, such as New Orleans, should treat Nate as a serious threat for flooding from heavy rain and storm surge.
“New Orleans levees that have been upgraded since Katrina and pumps that have been repaired in recent weeks may be tested this weekend,” according to AccuWeather Expert Meteorologist and Chief Operating Officer Evan Myers.
“A hurricane that rolls ashore just east of New Orleans can push a great deal of water into Lake Pontchartrain.”
Officials have emergency generators on standby for pumping operations in New Orleans, according to NOLA.com. Out of 120 main line pumps, 108 are operational at this time. Five of the city’s 29 pumps at underpasses were out of commission as of Wednesday.
People in the potential path should have a plan in order and may want to gather necessities in case a strengthening hurricane takes aim at their community. People are encouraged to heed all evacuation orders when they are given.
People should not just focus on the point of landfall for significant impact.
The U.S. Gulf coast areas from northern Florida to Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana may be at risk for damaging winds, coastal flooding, rough surf and beach erosion this weekend and into early next week.
Wind and wave action will produce rough seas and dangerous surf throughout the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
The greatest coastal impacts will focus from part of the central Gulf coast to the upper west coast of the Florida Peninsula.
Small craft throughout the Gulf of Mexico should remain in port this weekend. Bathers should avoid venturing beyond knee-deep water as the number and strength of rip currents will increase substantially even as far west as Texas.
The potential for coastal flooding will extend well east of the center of the storm.
“Above-normal tides and coastal flooding can occur in the Tampa, Florida, area, even if the storm heads toward the central Gulf coast,” Kottlowski said.
In terms of rainfall and severe thunderstorms, the anticipated moisture versus dry air pattern will likely cause Nate to be lopsided.
“The heaviest rain is likely to fall near and east of the center of the storm, until after it begins to move inland over the U.S.,” Rossio said.
As a result, flooding rainfall, severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes can occur well east of the center of Nate on Saturday and Sunday.
People in Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, southeastern Mexico, the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and the United States’ northern and eastern Gulf coast should keep up to date on the situation.
Even a tropical storm could bring torrential rainfall and flash flooding.
“In lieu of a major hurricane and/or flooding, beneficial rain will extend across the interior eastern U.S. next week, which could ease abnormally dry and building drought conditions in some locations,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun.
AccuWeather is projecting a total of 17 tropical storms, which includes 11 hurricanes, through December 2017 in the Atlantic basin. The Atlantic basin includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Hurricane season officially ends at the end of November.
Including Nate, there have been 14 tropical storms, eight hurricanes and five major hurricanes thus far.
“To stay safe, we urge people to keep checking AccuWeather.com and the AccuWeather apps for the latest developments,” Myers said.
By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com