It's now located 280 miles southwest of Panama City, Fla. The storm was racing northeast at 22 miles per hour.
Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 has a 90% chance of developing into a tropical or subtropical storm, the hurricane center says - and tropical storm warnings already have been issued for parts of coastal Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
Nestor is projected to strike along the Florida Panhandle on Saturday morning as a strong tropical storm. It won't be like Hurricane Michael past year, but coastal flooding is still expected.
Forecasters expect blustery winds and heavy rain in parts of Alabama, Georgia and northern Florida, reaching the Carolinas and Virginia by Sunday.
Up to 6 inches of rain is possible in the Florida Panhandle. The AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes ranges from values of less than 1 to 5. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area within the next 48 hours. And unsafe rip currents are possible along the coast as Nestor approaches land Friday and Saturday.
A storm surge warning also is in effect for the eastern Florida Panhandle and the state's Big Bend region north of Clearwater.
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With conditions deteriorating by the hour, events including high school football games were canceled or postponed. The mayor has imposed a state of emergency to seize property and force people out if necessary.
Shellfish harvesting areas off the coast of Florida have been closed by the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services until Nestor has passed.
Local officials are concerned high winds could weaken the remnants of an 18-story Hard Rock Hotel that collapsed while under construction in New Orleans, killing three.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, there are now no tropical disturbances that are expected to develop into a named-tropical system such as Nestor. The elevated threat for rip currents will continue into the early part of next week.
"It is possible that tropical activity effectively shuts down after Nestor", he added.