Sun Sentinel

October 4, 2017


Hurricane Nate Could Threaten Florida’s Gulf Coast by the Weekend

By Brett Clarkson


A tropical depression that formed Wednesday is forecast to become a hurricane as it heads toward Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. If it does strike Florida as Hurricane Nate, it’s expected to do so this weekend, likely early Sunday. It may make landfall somewhere between the Tampa Bay area and the Alabama-Mississippi border.


The northern Gulf Coast could see “direct impacts from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. “However, it is too early to specify the timing or magnitude of these impacts.”


The storm, known as Tropical Depression 16, formed Wednesday morning in the southwestern Caribbean Sea. It was east of the coast of Nicaragua and traveling slowly, at 7 mph, to the northwest. Its wind speeds were about 35 mph. If those winds increase to at least 39 mph, it would be a tropical storm.


The depression could strengthen to a tropical storm later Wednesday and move over eastern Nicaragua and Honduras on Thursday before re-emerging in the Caribbean Sea by early Friday, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.


It would traverse Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Friday before arriving into the Gulf of Mexico by early Saturday. Forecasters say conditions in the Gulf are favorable to the strengthening of tropical storms and hurricanes, with warm temperatures and little opposing winds referred to by forecasters as wind shear.


The center of the cone, as of the Wednesday 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, is aiming toward the general vicinity of Apalachicola, Port St. Joe and Panama City Beach in the Florida Panhandle.


Tallahassee, although farther inland, and Pensacola, to the west, are also in the cone, as is Jacksonville. Is there any likelihood the storm’s path could change and aim toward southeast Florida or farther south on the Gulf Coast, such as Naples? “That is not expected at this stage,” Feltgen said, “as a building ridge over the southwestern Atlantic is forecast to steer the system to the north-northeast or northeast toward the northern Gulf States.”


Meanwhile, the hurricane center is also issuing updates on the windy conditions that have been noticeable across South Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s an area of showers and thunderstorms affecting southern Florida and the northwestern Bahamas. These storms are not expected to become a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane, but there is a chance they’ll continue to bring heavy rain and strong winds in some parts of the area over the next couple of days, the hurricane center said.