Tropical Storm Nate's forecast track continued to shift west Thursday, reducing the threat to Florida but placing New Orleans squarely in the storm's cross hairs.
As of 11 p.m., the storm was about to move offshore after hitting Honduras, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds were 40 mph and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 60 miles from Nate's center, mainly to the northeast, the NHC said.
Officials on Thursday night issued a storm surge watch for the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans as well as the coastline from Morgan City, La. to the Alabama-Florida border. A hurricane watch was also issued for that same stretch of coastline, as well as metropolitan New Orleans and lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the stretch of coastline from the Mississippi-Alabama border to Okaloosaa-Walton county line in Florida, and from west of Morgan City to Intracoastal City, La.
The storm was forecast to dump heavy rains on parts of Central America as it moves north-northwest at 10 mph, forecasters reported, before speeding up its forward march. The storm's center was expected to approach the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula late Friday and then enter the Gulf of Mexico where it will likely strengthen to a hurricane, officials said.
After that, the NHC predicts the storm will make its U.S. landfall along the eastern Louisiana, Mississipi or Alabama coastlines Sunday.
Mexico's government issued a hurricane watch from Punta Herrero to Cabo Catoche in the state of Quintana Roo with the storm expected to reach the resort-dotted stretch of coast late Friday.
Tampa Bay will see little effect if Nate stays on its current path, said 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Ric Kearbey. The storm inflated rain chances over the weekend, he said, but it isn't forecast to deliver heavy winds or storm surge.