Tropical Storm Nate could hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend

The storms just keep coming.

Tropical Storm Nate, which formed Thursday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center, is currently dumping prodigious amounts of rain over parts of Central America.

But as Nate churns across the warm Caribbean, the storm is expected to pick up strength. The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast suggests Nate could make landfall as a hurricane somewhere near New Orleans on Sunday morning.

The biggest question is how strong Nate will get between now and then.

Right now, Nate’s tropical-storm-force winds have maximum sustained speeds of 40 mph. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras. Hurricane watches  — meaning hurricane conditions may arrive within 48 hours  — are in effect for parts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Nate is expected to pour 15 to 20 inches of rain onto much of Nicaragua, with isolated locations getting 30 inches. That puts the area at high risk for life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

After Nate crosses the Yucatan, it will move over extremely warm water, which means that conditions are ripe for rapid strengthening.

It’s hard to predict the exact path and intensity that Nate will have by the time it heads toward the Gulf Coast, especially since the storm is still relatively disorganized.

But Nate adds yet another threat to what has already been an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season. It’s the 14th named storm of the season, which doesn’t end until late November.

So far, we’ve had eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes (classified as Category 3 or above). If Nate’s wind speeds pick up, it will be the ninth.

The western Caribbean, where Nate formed, is one of the main spots to watch for storms at this point in hurricane season, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University. Since 1851, 25% of Atlantic tropical storms, 33% of hurricanes, and 60% of major hurricanes in October formed in that region.

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