It was just on Monday that the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) constantly updated image map showed little to no real activity in the tropics. Within a period of roughly 48 hours a low pressure system off the coast of Nicaragua has turned into Tropical Depression Sixteen. If the storm develops as the National Hurricane Center projects, then the Gulf Coast region will get to ponder Tropical Storm Nate and then will potentially get to deal with Hurricane Nate.
The system is currently listed as only TD16. According to the NHC forecasts, TD16 is expected to turn into a tropical storm at some point on Wednesday, which would give it the official name of Nate shortly before passing over Nicaragua and Honduras on Thursday before heading back to sea Thursday night to Friday.
What will really matter here is whether or not this rapidly developing system will move from a tropical storm into a hurricane. The current path, which is of course subject to change at any official daily update time, has TD16 becoming a hurricane by Sunday morning and with the mid-point of the projected cone path targeting the western side of the Florida panhandle.
TD16 had maximum sustained winds of just 35 miles per hour as of 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday. The NHC website synopsis for the Gulf of Mexico last noted (most abbreviations removed) that TD16 may turn into a hurricane with U.S. landfall:
Sixteen-E will move through the Yucatan Channel as a tropical storm Thursday night, reaching 17.9N 85.0W in the South central Gulf by Friday morning. Sixteen-E may intensify further before reaching 23.5N 87.0W Saturday morning, then making landfall as hurricane on the western Florida Panhandle Sunday.
Again, these forecasts all subject to change. The strength and the projected destination often end up being quite different by the time they make landfall versus when they were first developing.