Preparedness & Recovery

Tropical Storm Watch Issued for Emerald Coast as Nate Threatens

Nate's interaction with land could cause a temporary cessation in the the strengthening process, but once the storm emerges over the Gulf of Mexico, Nate is expected to resume intensification and the storm is expected to become a hurricane.

by Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach / October 6, 2017
A couple cross a bridge over the Maria Aguilar river on the outskirt San Jose, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Tropical Storm Nate formed off the coast of Nicaragua on Thursday and was being blamed for at least 17 deaths in Central America as it spun north toward a potential landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane over the weekend. AP/Moises Castillo

(TNS) - The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm watch for the Emerald Coast to the Okaloosa-Walton line in anticipation of Tropical Storm Nate affecting the area over the weekend.

As of the 11 p.m. advisory Nate was about to move off the Honduran coastline into an area where intensification was considered likely. The Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. advisory that Nate could be near hurricane strength once it nears the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula.

Nate's interaction with land could cause a temporary cessation in the the strengthening process, but once the storm emerges over the Gulf of Mexico, Nate is expected to resume intensification and the storm is expected to become a hurricane.

Guidance as of the 8 p.m. advisory has not changed significantly and Nate is expected to make landfall along the north-central Gulf Coast early Sunday.

Tropical storm conditions mean an area could experience higher than normal tides, heavy rain and winds up to and exceeding 39 mph.

The Daily News will update this storm Friday morning when the latest advisory is issued by the Hurricane Center.

UPDATE 4 P.M.

The latest track from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Storm Nate has shifted even further west, taking all of Florida outside the "cone of error" entirely.

The storm is expected to make landfall on the coast of Louisiana or Mississippi late Saturday or early Sunday as a hurricane.

UPDATE 2 P.M.

Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 17-262 declaring a state of emergency in 29 counties within the State of Florida in response to Tropical Storm Nate. The counties under the state of emergency are Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Baker, Union, Bradford, and Alachua counties. Governor Scott is ensuring that local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this storm and are not hindered, delayed or prevented from taking all necessary actions to keep communities safe.

Governor Scott said, "Tropical Storm Nate is headed north toward our state and Florida must be prepared. I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Tropical Storm Nate and while current forecast models have the storm's center west of Florida, we must be vigilant and get prepared. Today, given these forecasts, I have declared a state of emergency for 29 counties in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and ensure resources are dispersed to local communities. By declaring an emergency in these counties, we can also ensure that there is no hindrance in the transportation of supplies and assets. I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news and visit FLGetAPlan.com today as we all prepare for Tropical Storm Nate. We will keep monitoring and issuing updates on Tropical Storm Nate as it approaches the Gulf Coast."UPDATE 1:15 P.M.

The latest National Hurricane Center models at 2 p.m. continue to show Tropical Storm Nate on a trajectory towards the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts, with uncertainties about exact landfall and intensity remaining. The storm is currently approaching the Yucatan Peninsula and is expected to impact the U.S. as a hurricane.

UPDATE 12:30 P.M.

GULF BREEZE — Gulf Islands National Seashore officials will close all areas of the national seashore including all Mississippi Islands, the Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, Naval Live Oaks, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and the Perdido Key Areas to all public use due to the approach of Tropical Storm Nate. All areas will close this evening, Thursday, October 5, at their regular time. All campers at the Fort Pickens & Davis Bayou Campgrounds must evacuate by 12:00 pm on Friday, October 6, 2017.

When announcing the closure, Superintendent Daniel R. Brown said, "with this tropical storm in the Gulf, and possibly of becoming a hurricane taking aim at the coast, we have to begin now in order to safeguard human life." The National Park Service has to move visitors off the exposed barrier islands and close down all the island operations. "Right now, we have to close the park for the safety of our visitors and our employees", Brown said.

Park officials will finalize the closure of all operations and offices as Tropical Storm Nate continues to approach. When necessary all offices close the park's incident management team will monitor the storm from a safe location. Gulf Islands National Seashore will reopen after the storm has passed and the staff has an opportunity to mitigate any hazards resulting from the storm.

UPDATE 10:12 A.M.

The latest model from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Storm Nate developing into a hurricane earlier than expected, though most of Okaloosa county and all of Walton county have moved outside the "cone of error" projecting the storm's landfall.

The western portion of Okaloosa county and all of Santa Rosa county remain in the cone.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Nate is forecast to be near hurricane intensity when it approaches the Yucatan peninsula late Friday. It is expected to reach the northern Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane, and the threat of direct impacts from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall are increasing.

The NHC noted "it is too early to specify the exact timing, location or magnitude of these impacts. Residents along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana through the Florida panhandle should monitor the progress of Nate and heed any advice given by local officials."

UPDATE 10:09 A.M.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — Hurricane Condition 4 has been declared at Eglin Air Force Base by the commander as of 9 a.m. today due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nate.

Hurricane Condition 4 means destructive winds of 58 MPH or greater are possible within 72 hours.

Eglin units are reviewing checklists, taking internal precautions and encouraging personnel and their families to prepare for the possibility of weather conditions associated with a potential hurricane.

Eglin officials also remind people to monitor television or radio broadcasts and the internet for the National Hurricane Center's latest forecast.

UPDATE 10 A.M.

No evacuations have been ordered and no local states of emergency have been declared, but Northwest Florida emergency officials said they are closely monitoring the track of Tropical Storm Nate and gearing up for any potential impacts on Northwest Florida.

Though the track of the storm shifted west overnight, Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg said that put the Florida panhandle on the east side of the storm, which could mean severe weather.

"A lot of [the weather] will depend upon the track obviously, and the track the past couple advisories has been sliding somewhat west, which is not necessarily good news for Walton county because a lot of the heavy weather is on the east side," Goldberg said. "If we're on the east side of the storm that could also mean we're going to get some storm surge."

Randy McDaniel, Chief of Emergency Management for Okaloosa County, said the area could expect to see severe thunderstorms with possible tornadoes begging late Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

"We are still in the position where we've prepared for possible impact," McDaniel said. "It looks like a Sunday morning time frame or Sunday afternoon late. It's really depending on how long it stays over land."

Santa Rosa County Emergency Management Director Brad Baker was not immediately available Thursday morning, but county spokeswoman Brandi Whitehurst said the county was preparing sand for residents ahead of the storm.

"Santa Rosa County is making limited supplies of sand available at no cost at several locations," she said in an email. "Sand bags are available at local home improvement stores for purchase (Hall's Hardware in Milton, Lowe's in Midway and Pace). Bring shovels to fill and load your own bags. The locations for sand are Leisure Street at Citrus Drive in Holley By the Sea, Tiger Point Park in Gulf Breeze, Pace Fire-Rescue in Pace and the corner of Pine Forest Road and Carroll Road in Milton."

McDaniel and Goldberg urged residents to keep track of the latest updates from county officials via their various websites and social media postings. Okaloosa county residents can like the county's public safety Facebook page, the county webpage and the department's Twitter account, as well as by downloading the county's 'Ready Okaloosa' app.

In Walton county, residents can like the emergency management Facebook page and sign up for the county's Alert Walton notification program.

Santa Rosa County residents can keep track via the emergency management department's Facebook page.

UPDATE: 7 A.M.

And just that quick we have a named storm heading toward the Gulf Coast.

In its 7 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center announced that the tropical depression in the Caribbean had intensified and was now Tropical Storm Nate. In its report just two hours earlier, NHC noted that its intensity forecast had the storm elevating to hurricane strength over the next 72 hours.

Nate was reported at 7 a.m. to now have maximum sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts. The storm remained on a northwest track with its speed inching upward to 8 mph. The minimum central pressure had dropped slightly to 999 millibars (29.50 inches).

The newly-formed tropical storm is currently located about 10 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

"Nate will make landfall along the U.S. upper Gulf coast on Sunday," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.

The U.S. Gulf coast areas from 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.

The storm is forecast by the hurricane center to continue strengthening and take a north-northwestward motion at a faster forward speed beginning later today and continue through Friday night.

Also added to the latest report was the fact that tropical storm force winds had been accurately recorded and extend outward up to 60 miles mainly over water to the east of the center.

There were no other changes from the 5 a.m. report by the Hurricane Center.

According to the previous report, southeast Louisiana is the target area for landfall. The shift west overnight, however, did not remove the Panhandle from the storm's cone of uncertainty, as Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties all remain in play along the dangerous eastern side of the cone.

Throughout Wednesday, the Hurricane Center gradually moved the storm's center for landfall, sliding west from Apalachicola to a point entering the evening that pinpointed Destin and South Walton County. That trend continued into the early morning report Thursday.



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