A cluster of thunderstorms in the southwestern Caribbean has organized into the 16th tropical depression of the Atlantic’s hurricane season, and is expected to become the season’s 14th named storm, Nate. The storm is forecast to cut across the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and track northward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, making landfall somewhere between Louisiana and Florida’s west coast late on Sunday. Waters in the Gulf are nearly back to their pre-Harvey temperatures — 0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above normal — meaning that Nate is expected to pick up steam as it strengthens into at least a category-1 hurricane.

"The system is forecast to continue strengthening 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," according to the National Hurricane Center. "However, it is too early to specify the timing or magnitude of these impacts."

A number of mitigating factors may keep Nate from evolving into a hurricane stronger than a category-1, with some models forecasting its strength capping out as a strong tropical storm. Although it is too early to tell what path the storm will take, there is the potential for it to strike New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, Apalachicola, and possibly even Tampa. The timing of a cold front that is advancing across the Atlantic is expected to affect whether Nate will take a north-north-east or north-north-west tack. 

The name ‘Nate’ has been in use on the list of tropical storm names since 1981: when a storm causes a significant amount of devastation, its name is retired from the list, but to date no storm named Nate has been damaging enough to warrant having the moniker stricken from the roster — hopefully, this storm will uphold that tradition.

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