Tropical Storm Nate strengthening over northwestern Caribbean sea - NHC

Oct 6 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Nate is strengthening over the northwestern Caribbean sea and hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for the northern Gulf Coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Friday.

The storm is located about 165 miles (260 km) north-northeast of Isla Guanaja, Honduras with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 km/h), the Miami-based NHC said.

Nate will move into the southern Gulf of Mexico Friday night and move near or over the northern Gulf coast Saturday night or Sunday, the NHC said adding Nate is expected to become hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico.

(Reporting by Karen Rodrigues and Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru)

This is a breaking news alert. Please check back for updates. The previous Reuters report is below.

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Nate took aim at Caribbean resorts on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Friday on its way to the U.S. Gulf Coast where it could strike as a hurricane this weekend after killing at least 22 people in Central America.

Nate was blowing maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (72 kmh) and was about 230 miles (370 km) southeast of the Mexican holiday resort island of Cozumel early on Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm is expected to reach the eastern edge of the Yucatan peninsula, home to popular vacation destinations such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen, on Friday evening, the NHC said.

Nate will likely strengthen to a hurricane by the time it hits the northern Gulf of Mexico, it added. Oil and natural gas producers began evacuating staff at U.S. Gulf of Mexico platforms on Thursday.

18 PHOTOS
Tropical Storm Nate ravages Central America
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Tropical Storm Nate ravages Central America
Dogs sit on the shore of the Masachapa river, flooded by heavy rains by Tropical Storm Nate in the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
People in a neighborhood are evacuated due to the danger of a mudslide during heavy rains by Tropical Storm Nate in Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
The flooded Tiribi river is seen during heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in San Jose, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
A resident watches the rising waves in Masachapa beach during heavy rains due to Tropical Storm Nate in the city of Masachapa, about 60km from the city of Managua on October 5, 2017. A tropical storm sliding north along Central America Thursday has unleashed heavy rains killing at least nine people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with forecasters predicting it could strengthen into a hurricane headed for the United States. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
A men cleans a street flooded by Tiribi river during heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in San Jose, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Residents look at the floodings of the Masachapa River following the passage of Tropical Storm Nate in the city of Masachapa, about 60km from the city of Managua on October 5, 2017. A tropical storm sliding north along Central America Thursday has unleashed heavy rains killing at least nine people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with forecasters predicting it could strengthen into a hurricane headed for the United States. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents look at the floodings of the Masachapa River following the passage of Tropical Storm Nate in the city of Masachapa, about 60km from the city of Managua on October 5, 2017. A tropical storm sliding north along Central America Thursday has unleashed heavy rains killing at least nine people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with forecasters predicting it could strengthen into a hurricane headed for the United States. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers clear rubble from a road following the passage of Tropical Storm Nate in the city of El Crucero, about 20km from the city of Managua on October 5, 2017. A tropical storm sliding north along Central America Thursday has unleashed heavy rains killing at least nine people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with forecasters predicting it could strengthen into a hurricane headed for the United States. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
Dogs stand near on a road partially collapsed by heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
A resident look at damage caused by heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate on Masachapa river in outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua October 5,2017.REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A resident stands on the shore of the Masachapa river, flooded by heavy rains by Tropical Storm Nate in the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Mayor's workers repairs Pan-American highway damaged by heavy rains by tropical storm Nate in Rivas, Nicaragua October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A damaged boat is pictured on the shore of San Juan del Sur Bay after tropical storm Nate in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua October 6,2017.REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Local residents cross a river flooded by heavy rains by Tropical Storm Nate in Nandaime town, Nicaragua October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
People in a neighborhood are evacuated due to the danger of a mudslide during heavy rains by Tropical Storm Nate in Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
View of damages caused by the passage of Tropical Storm Nate, near Goascoran, in Valle department, Honduras on October 6, 2017. Tropical Storm Nate gained strength as it headed toward popular Mexican beach resorts and ultimately the US Gulf coast after dumping heavy rains in Central America that left at least 22 people dead. / AFP PHOTO / ORLANDO SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A boy collects wood from a damaged, stranded boat in San Juan del Sur beach, following the passage of Tropical Storm Nate, in Rivas some 140km from Managua, Nicaragua, on October 6, 2017 Tropical Storm Nate gained strength as it headed toward popular Mexican beach resorts and ultimately the US Gulf coast after dumping heavy rains in Central America that left at least 22 people dead. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)
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The storm doused Central America with heavy rains on Thursday, killing at least 11 people in Nicaragua, eight in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and one in El Salvador, local authorities said.

Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes and Costa Rica's government declared a state of emergency, closing schools and all other non-essential services.

Nate is predicted to become a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest category on a five-level scale used by meteorologists, by the time it hits the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday.

U.S. officials from Florida to Texas told residents on Thursday to prepare for the storm.

A state of emergency was declared for 29 Florida counties and the city of New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The NHC has issued a hurricane watch from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border, including New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurepas.

Nate is expected to produce six to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) of rain in parts of Honduras and Nicaragua, two to four inches (5 to 10 cm) of rain in eastern Yucatan and western Cuba and three to six inches (8 to 15 inches) of rain in the U.S. central Gulf Coast.

On Friday morning, the storm was moving northwest at 14 miles per hour (23 kmh).

(Writing and additional reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Alistair Bell)

11 PHOTOS
Tropical Storm Nate's impact in Costa Rica
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Tropical Storm Nate's impact in Costa Rica
Residents look at a road partially collapsed following heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica, October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Residents look ta road partially collapsed by heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Residents look ta road partially collapsed by heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Dogs stand near on a road partially collapsed by heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Residents look at a road partially collapsed following heavy rains of Tropical Storm Nate that affects the country in El Llano de Alajuelita, Costa Rica, October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
View of fallen branches over a fence due to strong winds and heavy rains caused by tropical storm Nate in Cartago, 25 kilometres East of San Jose on October 5, 2017. Costa Rica is under a National Emergency decree due to heavy rains and winds that already left two dead and 6 dissapeared, while several roads and bridges were damaged, and rockslides blocked access to some villages. / AFP PHOTO / EzequielBECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIELBECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Locals holding umbrellas wait at a bus stop during a downpour caused by tropical storm Nate in Cartago, 25 kilometres East of San Jose on October 5, 2017. Costa Rica is under a National Emergency decree due to heavy rains and winds that already left two dead and 6 dissapeared, while several roads and bridges were damaged, and rockslides blocked access to some villages. / AFP PHOTO / EzequielBECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIELBECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A car drives past a residential area affected by a landslide due to heavy rains caused by tropical storm Nate in Cartago, 25 kilometres East of San Jose on October 5, 2017. Costa Rica is under a National Emergency decree due to heavy rains and winds that already left two dead and 6 dissapeared, while several roads and bridges were damaged, and rockslides blocked access to some villages. / AFP PHOTO / EzequielBECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIELBECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
View of a residential area affected by a landslide due to heavy rains caused by tropical storm Nate in Cartago, 25 kilometres East of San Jose on October 5, 2017. Costa Rica is under a National Emergency decree due to heavy rains and winds that already left two dead and 6 dissapeared, while several roads and bridges were damaged, and rockslides blocked access to some villages. / AFP PHOTO / EzequielBECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIELBECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A van drives past fallen trees, blown down by strong winds and rainfall caused by tropical storm Nate in Cartago, 25 kilometres East of San Jose on October 5, 2017. Costa Rica is under a National Emergency decree due to heavy rains and winds that already left two dead and 6 dissapeared, while several roads and bridges were damaged, and rockslides blocked access to some villages. / AFP PHOTO / EzequielBECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIELBECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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