Much of the central Gulf Coast is under tropical storm or hurricane watches Friday as Tropical Storm Nate gathers strength ahead of a projected landfall this weekend.
A hurricane watch has been issued from Morgan City, La. eastward to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including the New Orleans metro area. Tropical storm watches are in place from Morgan City west to Intracoastal City, La. and from the Mississippi/Alabama border eastward to the Okaloosa/Walton county line in Northwest Florida, including Mobile and Pensacola.
The National Hurricane Center’s current forecast track shows Nate making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near New Orleans late Saturday or early Sunday morning. The track has shifted to the west in recent advisories, with all but a sliver of Florida outside the forecast’s “cone of uncertainty” in the NHC’s latest update.
As of 10:00 p.m. Thursday, the center of Tropical Storm Nate was located off the coast of Honduras and moving northwest at about 12 miles per hour. Forecasters expect the storm to take a turn to the north-northwest overnight, grazing the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday evening before moving into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 40 miles per hour, with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles, mainly to the east of the center.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday proactively declared a state of emergency for 29 counties, including Escambia and Santa Rosa. Gulf Islands National Seashore officials announced that all park areas would close on Thursday evening ahead of the storm’s landfall, and the University of West Florida announced that all UWF facilities would close at noon Saturday and remain closed through Monday. UWF’s football game, originally scheduled to be played Saturday evening, has been moved up to Friday evening at 6:00 p.m.