Cancun, Q.R. — Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported Tropical Depression 16 had materialized into Tropical Storm Nate, a storm that has already killed at least 22.
In Nicaragua, the country’s vice president Rosario Murillo says so far, 11 people have been reported killed. Seven others were reported missing and thousands were forced to evacuate homes because of flooding.
Emergency officials in Costa Rica have said that at least eight people were killed due to torrential rain, two of whom were children. Another 17 people were reported missing, while more than 7,000 had to take refuge from Nate in shelters.
Two youths also drowned in Honduras due to a swelling river they tried to cross. One man was killed in a mud slide in El Salvador and another person was reported missing, emergency services said.
Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters says that satellite imagery Thursday showed that although the intensity of Nate’s heavy thunderstorms had waned slightly after the center made landfall, the overall structure of the storm was holding together.
He explains that Nate will be passing over an area of very high ocean heat content in the Western Caribbean, with very warm waters that extend to great depths. Since Nate is unlikely to emerge from Honduras as a well-organized system, it will probably take the storm about 12 hours to get organized and take full advantage of these favorable conditions.
CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller commented, “How much Nate is able to strengthen once it hits those warm waters depends a lot on how intact the center of the storm can maintain as it traverses land,” adding, “If it gets ragged, it will take some time to reform over the ocean, and that will mean less time to gain in intensity.
“But if it manages to stay together while over Central America, it will be able to take advantage of those warm waters and quickly strengthen, maybe even undergo rapid intensification,” he said.
According to the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds had strengthened to 45 mph with the storm moving northwest at 14 mph. Nate is expected to continue to strengthen today as it moves over warm water and crosses Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula tonight as a strong tropical storm with winds of about 60 mph.
The National Hurricane Center says Mexico’s resort cities of Cancun and Cozumel will feel the full brunt of the storm adding that a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are now in effect for those resort cities as well as other parts of the northeast Yucatan.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reports offshore oil and gas operators have already evacuated personnel from six of the 737 manned oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. One drilling rig was also moved out of the storm’s predicted path as a precaution.
The National Hurricane Center reports that as of 5 a.m. Friday, Tropical Storm Nate was moving off Honduras and re-entering the Caribbean Sea.
Mexico’s Conagua warns Nate’s rains for the Cancun, Cozumel regions could amount to between 50 mm and 75 mm.
High tide at Cozumel and Cancun will be one of the highest of the year due to the full moon. Tidal range at Cozumel/Cancun between low and high tide is only about 0.6 – 0.8 feet (.18 – .25 meters), so the timing of Nate’s storm surge with respect to the high tide is less important than we see for most locations along the U.S. coast.
An advisory from the US National Hurricane Center said warnings had been issued for portions of the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastlines, with the storm expected to hit the region late Saturday or early Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane.