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Tropical Storm Nate forms near Nicaragua and is bound for the US coast

Jenny Staletovich, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Nate formed early Thursday, dumping heavy rain across the Central American coast on a northward track headed for the U.S.

At 8 a.m., the storm was located about 10 miles south of Nicaragua's north coast with sustained winds of 40 mph. It's expected to make landfall Thursday as it continues moving to the northwest and picked up speed through Friday night as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula.

The latest models shift the storm to the west, taking it away from the Florida Panhandle and toward Louisiana when it approaches the U.S. Sunday. However, forecast tracks so far in advance can be many miles off, with the average at four days at about 170 miles.

Crossing land twice is also complicating the storm's future outcome, forecasters said. Nate is not likely to gain any more intensity Thursday, but will likely strengthen as it crosses warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico and faces light wind shear. However, predicting the storm's intensity over the coming days remains complicated, forecasters said.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras, with a hurricane watch in effect for parts of Mexico. The wet storm is expected to dump heavy rain, with 15 to 20 inches in Costa Rica and Panama, and up to 30 inches possible in places. Honduras and Belize could get between five and 10 inches.

The storm is being steered by a high pressure ridge over the southeastern Bahamas and into the central Caribbean. Over the weekend, another ridge is expected to build over the southeast U.S. coast, and move the storm more to the northwest at a faster speed. Models that differed Wednesday now agree the storm will likely move more to the west.

How intense the storm becomes remains the complicating factor. Moving over Nicaragua could shake up its core. As it swings back over warm ocean water, it will likely regain strength, forecasters said. But how much depends on its inner strength. The latest models have trended downward.

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The storm comes more than a month before the end of a record-breaking season that had been forecast to be above average. During the historical peak of the season in September, a new record was set for the highest amount of hurricane energy in a single month. The most number of hurricane days also occurred, according to Colorado State meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.

In less than 30 days, three major hurricanes form with lethal results: Harvey, Irma an

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