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Tropical Storm Nestor forms, threatening US Gulf Coast

MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Nestor formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, threatening the northern Gulf Coast with rising seawater, high winds and heavy rains.

The National Hurricane Center said high winds and dangerous storm surge were likely along parts of the northern Gulf Coast, plus heavy rain that could help a parched region dealing with a drought.

Conditions were expected to get worse along the coast late Friday into early Saturday. Events including high school football games were canceled or postponed, but officials were trying to calm fears of a hard hit similar to Hurricane Michael last year.

Forecasters said at 1 p.m. that the system was about 195 miles (315 kilometers) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had top sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 22 mph (35 kph).

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.

High schools from Alabama to the eastern Florida Panhandle called off 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 (5 to 10 centimeters) 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 (15 centimeters) in spots, forecasters said.

Seawater pushed inland by the storm could rise as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) 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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