Gulf Coast braces for a possible tropical storm

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A weather disturbance moving toward the Southern United States with heavy rain and wind is expected to become a tropical storm Friday as it nears the Gulf Coast, forecasters said. The disturbance, which would be named Nestor, should bring a wet weekend across much of the drought-parched Southeast, where some events were being canceled and officials were trying to calm fears of a hard hit.

CBS Miami reports the combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The National Weather Service warned that “strong winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge flooding, and dangerous rip currents are likely.”

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Forecasters said the system was about 390 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had top sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving to the northeast at 14 mph.

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A tropical storm warning was in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama line to Yankeetown, Florida, and from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River.

Forecasters expect blustery winds and heavy rain in parts of Alabama, Georgia and northern Florida, reaching the Carolinas and Virginia by Sunday.

In New Orleans crews were preparing to explode two badly damaged construction cranes that are towering over a partially collapsed hotel project at the edge of the French Quarter. They planned to bring the cranes down Friday just ahead of winds that could cause them to tumble out of control.

“The impetus is this weather coming in,” Fire Chief Tim McConnell told CBS affiliate WWL-TV. “We want to be in control of how this happens. The goal is to try to get it done before this weather comes in [Friday] night.”

High schools from Alabama to the eastern Florida Panhandle canceled or postponed football games scheduled for Friday night, and officials in Panama City tried to assure residents that the storm wouldn’t be a repeat of Category 5 Hurricane Michael last year.

“We are optimistic this will be a slight wind and rain event,” said Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford.

The system could dump from 2 to 4 inches of rain from the central Gulf Coast to the eastern Carolinas, where many areas are dried out from weeks without rain, and as much as 6 inches in spots, forecasters said.

Seawater pushed inland by the storm could rise as much as 5 feet as storm surge in Florida’s Big Bend region, much of which is less-developed than the rest of the state’s coast.

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