Gov. Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency through nearly half of Florida as the state braces for the potential impact of Tropical Storm Nate, which is expected to make landfall in the Gulf Coast this weekend.
Twenty-nine counties are now under a state of emergency in the region, stretching all the way from Escambia to Alachua Counties.
Leon County, home of the state’s capital city Tallahassee, is also under the state of emergency.
Scott said he declared the state of emergency to ensure local governments have the time, resources and flexibility to prepare from the storm to keep Floridians safe if the storm makes landfall on the area.
As of Thursday morning, Nate had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, speeds which were expected to strengthen as the storm moves over the Caribbean Sea Thursday and Friday.
“Tropical Storm Nate is headed north toward our state and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said. “I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Tropical Storm Nate and while current forecast models have the storm’s center west of Florida, we must be vigilant and get prepared.”
The governor urged Floridians to “remain vigilant” and have a hurricane preparedness plan in place in case Nate causes damage as it passes over Florida.
Scott said 7,000 National Guard members are ready to deploy if necessary and utility companies have been told to monitor the storm and begin preparations for Nate.
Power companies have begun contacting their mutual aid partners to determine the availability of external resources to get electricity restored if necessary.
Amy Zubaly, executive director of Florida Municipal Electric Association, issued this statement late Thursday afternoon: “While there is still much uncertainty surrounding Tropical Storm Nate’s ultimate strength and path, Florida’s municipal electric utilities are watching it closely and are prepared to bring in power restoration resources should this storm system become a threat to Florida’s Panhandle and the public power communities located there.
"We have been in communication with our fellow public power utilities in other states that are also in the current path of Tropical Storm Nate. Our crews are ready to go to other Gulf coast states to assist them if needed and if Florida is not impacted.
"We continue to be in close communication with Gov. Rick Scott and thank him for being helpful and proactive as we face yet another tropical storm system,” Zubaly said.
The Florida Department of Health is currently on standby to respond to needs of assisted living facilities and nursing homes before the storm hits.
Nate will be the second major storm to strike Florida in a month and comes to the Sunshine State during one of the busiest hurricane seasons in recent years.
Last month, Hurricane Irma walloped most of Florida as a monster storm, engulfing the state with torrential downpour and high wind speeds.
As of Thursday afternoon, Nate is currently hovering over Nicaragua and is moving northwest towards the Gulf Coast, where it could become strong enough to be a hurricane by Sunday morning.
Gulf Coast areas from Florida to Alabama and Mississippi are bracing for potential high speed winds from Nate, with the possibility of coastal flooding extending all the way from the Panhandle to the Tampa Bay area.
Florida is already knee-deep in recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma, which caused billions of dollars worth of damage around the state.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.