Brace yourself Biloxi, Tropical Storm Nate has drawn a bead on Mississippi and the rest of the northern Gulf Coast.
Packing 40 mph winds, the storm was lashing Nicaragua on Thursday and "expected to become a hurricane" before it makes landfall Sunday somewhere between New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle, including coastal Mississippi and Alabama.gi
"As of now, those areas are in the cone," said NBC meteorologist Sherri Pugh. "Areas from New Orleans across to the Florida Panhandle should be prepared for tropical conditions as the forecast will come into focus over approximately the next 36 to 48 hours."
Houston, which is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, was not in Nate's sights as of Thursday afternoon, said Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center. But the beleaguered city could feel some of its effects.
"At this stage, residents along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana through the NW Florida Panhandle should monitor the progress of Nate, check their supplies and heed any advice given by local officials," Feltgen said in an email.
Officials in Grand Isle, a Louisiana town that sits on a narrow barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, have already declared a voluntary evacuation, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 29 counties located in the northern part of state
"We have to take it seriously and get prepared now," Scott said.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to an NHC advisory, Nate was marching northwest at a speed of 9 mph with winds of up to 40 mph as it moved across northeastern Nicaragua and drenching the country with up to 20 inches in rain.
Costa Rica and Panama are also forecast to get soaked, and the hurricane center warned "these areas may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."
The Mexican government, which is still picking up the pieces from a recent deadly earthquake, has issued a tropical storm warning for the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and some nearby islands.
"Strengthening is likely once the center moves over the northwestern Caribbean Sea tonight and Friday," the NHC advisory warned.