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Tropical Storm Nate has formed off Nicaragua, and it appears headed for the Gulf Coast

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Updated October 05, 2017 08:34 AM EDT

Tropical Depression Sixteen has become Tropical Storm Nate, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Thursday.

The storm has experienced a "notable westward forecast shift" since Wednesday, but it still appears headed for the Gulf Coast.

Nate is expected to bring 15 to 20 inches of rain to Nicaragua through Friday, with as much as 30 inches possible in areas of Costa Rica and Panama. Areas in Honduras and Belize could also see as much as 20 inches of rain.

"Heavy rainfall will occur over a wide area, including locations well away from the center along the Pacific coast of Central America," the NHC warned. "This rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

The storm is currently centered about 10 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and carries maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. It is moving northwest at 8 mph.

"On the forecast track, the center of Nate should move across northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras today and then over the northwestern Caribbean Sea tonight and Friday," the NHC said. "The center is expected to approach the coast of the Yucatan peninsula late Friday."

Tropical Depression Sixteen has formed in the Caribbean, and it could affect parts of the Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend.

The storm is expected to strengthen and become Tropical Storm Nate later Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The NHC warned of "direct impacts" along the Gulf Coast from wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall, but cautioned that it is "too early to specify the timing or magnitude of these impacts."

Residents along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida were urged to monitor the storm's progress.

Tropical Depression Sixteen was expected to bring heavy rainfall to portions of Nicaragua and Honduras late Wednesday and early Thursday.

As of 11 a.m., the storm was centered about 25 miles south-southwest of San Andres Island and about 210 miles south-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua-Honduras border.

It carried maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was moving northwest at 7 mph.

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