Florida and other Gulf states are under tropical storm watches and warnings as a potential tropical storm strengthens in the Gulf of Mexico.
The system — which would be named Nestor if it strengthens into a tropical storm — quickened its pace northeast early Friday near 21 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The system is packing 40 mph winds, as of the 7 a.m. advisory Friday.
Forecasters said the system could become a tropical storm later Friday and is about 305 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Dangerous storm surge and tropical storm force winds are expected to begin along portions of the northern Gulf coast later Friday, according to forecasters.
Would-be Nestor is forecast to make landfall in the Florida panhandle Saturday and while it’s expected to “gradually weaken” while it moves northeastward near the southeast U.S. coast, forecasters say it will cross through Georgia and the Carolinas as a tropical storm before entering the Atlantic ocean either late Sunday or early Monday. The storm will then fade into a tropical depression off the coast of Delaware.
“Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the coast within the warning area by late Friday, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous,” forecasters wrote.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border through Florida’s Aucilla River, as well as from Louisiana’s Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River.
East of the Aucilla River to Yankeetown Florida were upgraded to a tropical storm warning, while Indian Pass to Clearwater Beach were under a storm surge warning. Forecasters said these areas could see anywhere from two to five feet of storm surge, with the most intense storm surge concentrated from Florida’s Indian Pass to Chassahowitzka.
The affected areas could see up to four inches of rain, with isolated areas possibly seeing up to six inches of rain.