Tropical Storm Nate expected to strengthen into Gulf hurricane, tracks toward NC-TN border

Tropical Storm Nate is expected to bring wind and rain to the Southeastern United States, but its impacts to North Carolina may be less than originally forecast as the storm tracks further west.

As the storm strengthened a bit overnight into Thursday morning with sustained winds of 40 mph and stronger gusts, the path it is expected to travel also shifted to the west.

The 2 p.m. Thursday update by the National Hurricane Center shows the storm crossing the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula Friday afternoon to Saturday morning, and becoming a hurricane by 2 a.m. Sunday, when it is expected to be closer to New Orleans. Previous forecasts had showed the storm making its approach farther east, offshore of the Florida Panhandle.

“A north-northwestward motion at a faster forward speed is forecast to begin later today and continue through Friday night,” the center said.

As for North Carolina, it still appears some effects of the storm will be felt – though perhaps not as directly as once expected. The latest path shows Nate approaching the area near the Tennessee-North Carolina line as a weakening tropical storm early Monday morning. Parts of western North Carolina could begin to feel winds from Nate as early as Sunday morning.

ABC11 meteorologist Don Schwenneker said Thursday morning that he expects Nate to bring showers to North Carolina, where abnormally dry conditions exist for much of the central part of the state.

“With this western track, that would keep the heavier rains to the west of us, but we certainly will see some rainfall Sunday night into Monday,” Schwenneker said.

Gulf of Mexico waters are likely to strengthen Nate into a hurricane that could have direct wind, storm surge and rain impacts on the northern Gulf Coast. It’s still too early to tell exactly where and when, and how great the impacts will be, the center said.

“Residents along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle should monitor the progress of this system and heed any advice given by local officials,” the report said.

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