Tropical depression forms in Caribbean; likely to impact Gulf Coast this weekend as Hurricane Nate

The ferocious 2017 hurricane season shows no signs of letting up.

A newly formed tropical depression now spinning in the Caribbean Sea is forecast to move north into the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen into a hurricane by the weekend, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

As of 2 p.m. ET, the center of Tropical Depression 16 was located about 195 miles south-southeast of the Nicaragua/Honduras border. It had winds of 35 mph and was moving to the northwest at 7 mph.

A depression becomes a named storm when its winds reach 39 mph. The system will be called Nate.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect along the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. Over the next couple of days, "rainfall amounts of 15 to 20 inches are expected across portions of Nicaragua, with isolated maximum amounts of 30 inches possible," the hurricane center said, which could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Torrential rain is also forecast to soak portions of Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras.

As the storm moves north, if it slides to the east or southeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, where waters are the warmest, "we could quickly have a powerful hurricane on our hands," AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

Gulf Coast areas from Florida to Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana could be at risk for damaging winds, coastal flooding, rough surf and beach erosion this weekend and into early next week, AccuWeather said.

Some good news: "Beneficial rain may extend across the interior eastern U.S. next week, which could ease abnormally dry and building drought conditions in some locations," according to AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rathbun.

So far in 2017 there have been 13 named tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin, of which eight were hurricanes. Five of those were "major" hurricanes, with winds of Category 3 strength or more. 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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