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Nate Expected to Hit Gulf Coast as a Hurricane

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Keydeliz Nieves, 15, right, with her grandmother, Maria Nieves, views the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, P.R., Sept. 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, sending thousands of people scrambling to shelters and knocking out power on the island. - ERIKA P. RODRIGUEZ/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Erika P. Rodriguez/The New York Times
  • Keydeliz Nieves, 15, right, with her grandmother, Maria Nieves, views the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, P.R., Sept. 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, sending thousands of people scrambling to shelters and knocking out power on the island.

By ALAN BLINDER
© 2017 New York Times News Service

As Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, yet another storm seems to be on its way, with Central America and the Gulf Coast in its path.

Tropical Storm Nate is expected to strengthen into a hurricane and strike the Gulf Coast on Sunday, forecasters said Thursday.

Though the storm is only a few days away from an expected landfall in the United States, its probable path was still unclear, and authorities cautioned that in the United States, residents anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle could be at risk. Tropical storm-force winds were expected along the Gulf Coast beginning sometime Saturday.

“The system is forecast to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, and could affect portions of the northern Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend, with direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said in a forecast Thursday. “However, it is too early to specify the timing, location or magnitude of these impacts.”

As of 8 a.m., the hurricane center, based in Miami, said that Nate had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph — just above the threshold to be considered a tropical storm — and was 10 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Forecasters issued watches and warnings for parts of coastal Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, but no such advisories were yet in effect for the United States. They are usually posted about 48 hours in advance.

Authorities said the storm, which was expected to move slowly over Central America until early Saturday, would produce 10 to 20 inches of rain over parts of Nicaragua and that some areas could record 30 inches. The heavy rains there, as well as in Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and Panama, could lead to flash flooding and mudslides, officials said.

The storm is expected to move into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico early Saturday and strengthen as it moves toward the continental United States, where two hurricanes have already made landfall this year.