Tropical Storm Nestor Speeds Toward Northwest Florida

Tropical Storm Nestor sped toward northwest Florida on Friday afternoon.  The National Hurricane Center designated a strong low pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Nestor on Friday afternoon.  At 2:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Tropical Storm Nestor was located at latitude 26.3°N and longitude 89.5°W which put it about 355 miles (570 km) southwest of Panama City, Florida.  Nestor was moving toward the northeast at 22 m.p.h. (35 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1001 mb.

Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for the portions of the coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River, Mississippi and from the Mississippi/Alabama border to Yankeetown, Florida.  A Storm Surge Warning was in effect for the portion of the coast from Indian Pass to Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Tropical Storm Nestor exhibited an asymmetrical structure that is commonly seen in late season tropical storms over the Gulf of Mexico.  The strongest thunderstorms were occurring in bands in the eastern side of Nestor.  Bands in the western half of the circulation consisted primarily of showers and lower clouds.  The tropical storm force winds were occurring in the eastern half of Tropical Storm Nestor.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out 175 miles (280 km) in the eastern side of the circulation.  The winds in the western half of Nestor were mostly less than tropical storm force.

Drier air was being pulled around the western side of Tropical Storm Nestor.  In addition, an upper level trough over the western Gulf of Mexico was producing southwesterly winds which were blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds were causing moderate vertical wind shear.  The combination of the drier air and the vertical wind shear was responsible for the asymmetrical distribution of thunderstorms and strong winds in the eastern half of the circulation.

Tropical Storm Nestor will move through an environment only marginally favorable for further intensification during the next 12 hours.  Nestor will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  So, there is plenty of energy in the upper part of the Gulf of Mexico to support intensification.  However, the drier air and wind shear will inhibit intensification.  Tropical Storm Nestor will start a transition to an extratropical cyclone on Saturday.  Nestor could strengthen somewhat during the extratropical transition, but it could be over land before that occurs.

The upper level trough over the Western Gulf of Mexico will steer Nestor quickly toward the northeast during the next 48 hours.  On its anticipated track Tropical Storm Nestor could make landfall on the coast of northwest Florida between Panama City and Apalachicola.  Nestor will bring gusty winds to northern Florida on Saturday.  Strong southerly winds on the eastern side of Tropical Storm Nestor will push water toward the coast and a storm surge of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) will occur around the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.  Nestor could drop locally heavy rain over parts of northern Florida, southeast Alabama, southern Georgia and South Carolina.  Tropical Storm Nestor will make landfall near where Hurricane Michael did so much damage in 2018.  Recovery efforts have been slow in that area and Nestor could set back the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Michael.