Tropical Storm Nate is expected to impact Florida this weekend with rain and wind, even though the eye is not currently forecast to make landfall in the state.
Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in 29 counties in the northern part of the state.
The storm, which is still a tropical storm as of the National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m. EDT advisory Thursday morning, is expected to head toward the U.S. this weekend. Its current location is near Nicaragua, where it has sustained winds near 40 mph and where it could bring up to 30 inches of rain to parts of the Central American nation.
Gov. Rick Scott said he is coordinating with the utility companies along with local, state and federal officials.
"We have to take this seriously and get prepared now," he said on Thursday.
Kevin Rodriguez, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said Nate likely will not impact Central Florida, but people should still monitor the storm.
"The westward shift in the track is good," he said. "The forecast looks better for us right now than it did (Wednesday)."
Nate is moving toward the northwest at near 9 mph and should move across northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras Thursday and then over the northwestern Caribbean Sea tonight and Friday. The center is expected to approach the coast of the Yucatan peninsula late Friday.
Once the storm passes over the Yucatan and into the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane.
As a hurricane, Nate could affect portions of the northern Gulf Coast this weekend, with direct impacts from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall.
While the hurricane center cautions it's too early to pinpoint the exact location of landfall and the magnitude of the storm's impacts, it is urging residents along the Gulf Coast from Florida's Panhandle to Louisiana to monitor the progress of this system closely and heed any advice from local officials.