After a period of quiet in the Atlantic, tropical cyclone activity has once again picked up. Tropical Storm Nestor formed on Friday afternoon and is slated to impact the Gulf Coast Friday and into the weekend.
The sprawling disturbance spans a huge portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and is chugging toward the Florida Panhandle where storm surge and blast of rain could drench the region. That’s highly unwelcome news for an area still recovering from Hurricane Michael’s lashing last year as a Category 5 monster.
The precursor to Nestor has been swirling in the Gulf for days. But the disorganized thunderstorms got their act together on Friday and quickly shaped up into Tropical Storm Nestor. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) named Nestor during its 2 p.m. ET update after winding winds whipping around 60 mph making it a fairly potent tropical storm.
Along with naming the storm, the agency also put up tropical storm warnings from Louisiana to Yankeetown, Florida, which sits on the Gulf Coast. It also raised storm surge warnings for Indian Pass to Clearwater Beach, an area that also sits on Florida’s Gulf Coast. That means there’s “danger of life-threatening inundation.”
Nestor isn’t expected to intensify in the coming day, but the wide scope of its windfield ensures the storm’s force will be felt well before landfall on Saturday morning. Tropical storm-force winds—that is winds greater than 39 mph—extend 175 miles out from its core. Because of the way winds wrap around the core of tropical storms, the eastern side of Nestor is where the worst wind impacts will be felt. That means it’s an area where power lines are most likely to come down and outages could occur. Governor Ron Desantis warned in a tweet that residents should quickly prepare for as much.
But in addition to the prolonged wind event for the coast, that big windfield will also help the storm scoop up waters from the Gulf and push them ashore. NHC is calling for five feet of storm surge starting later on Friday. The highest surge—which will be aided by sea level rise—will rush into the heart of the Panhandle. Oh, and a few tornadoes also aren’t out of the question.
The Florida Panhandle was flattened by Hurricane Michael last year. The cone of probability puts Panama Beach, the epicenter of Michael’s $16 billion rampage, in Nestor’s crosshairs. The inland areas also hit hard by Michael could feel Nestor’s impacts as well. But the small comfort (in as much as there’s small comfort about hurricane-afflicted areas getting hit by another storm) is that Nestor is nowhere near the beast Michael was. That doesn’t mean residents living in the area should treat it likely, but the unprecedented destruction we saw with Michael isn’t going to happen again.