A burgeoning tropical system is closing in on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which should begin experiencing tropical-storm-force winds and mounting storm surge Friday night.

 

While the system, dubbed Potential Tropical Cyclone 16, has the 40 mph winds to qualify it as a storm, it still hasn’t gained the well defined center that would earn it the name Nestor.

The official forecast cone has landfall happening anywhere from Port St. Joe to just west of Fort Walton Beach with the center of the track going into Panama City Beach.

As of 7 a.m., the disturbance was 305 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River moving northeast at 21 mph. Its minimum central pressure was 1004 mb.

 

That doesn’t change the impacts, and tropical storm-force winds now extend 115 miles from the system’s center.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for areas from the Mississippi/Alabama border to Yankeetown, Florida and from Grand Isle Louisiana to the Pearl River.

A storm surge warning is in effect for Indian Pass, Florida to Clearwater Beach.

An up to 5-foot storm surge is forecast for Florida from Indian Pass to Chassahowitzka. An up to 4-foot sure is possible from Chassahowitzka to Clearwater Beach.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said track models are in “incredibly good agreement” on the path of the storm, despite it having a sloppy center that can make it difficult to pinpoint its exact location.

The official forecast cone has landfall happening anywhere from Port St. Joe to just west of Fort Walton Beach with the center of the track going into Panama City Beach.

“Regardless of the exact evolution of the system, portions of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico will experience strong winds, locally heavy rains, and storm surge Friday into Saturday,” wrote senior NHC hurricane specialist Lixion Avila in the 5 a.m. advisory.

The hurricane center began issuing advisories on “potential” tropical cyclones in 2017 for storms that they have a high confidence will form and impact land. It gives officials the opportunity to send out watches and warnings in advance of the storm actually forming.

The system is not expected to become a “classical” tropical cyclone, but could have characteristics of both tropical and subtropical.

“It doesn’t make a difference if it’s tropical or subtropical, it will still cause a pretty good surge into Apalachicola Bay,” said AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski. “One thing is parts of the Panhandle and the deep South have been in a drought so five to six inches of rain may not be a bad thing.”

The system will touch more than just the Panhandle. The Jacksonville National Weather Service has issued a gale watch through Saturday night with the possibility of winds reaching 40 mph.