Tropical Storm Nestor, a wide, wobbly, hybrid storm, was closing in on the Gulf Coast on Friday evening, but appeared to have moved southward far enough to no longer pose a serious threat to Okaloosa, Santa Rosa or Walton counties.

Tropical Storm Nestor, a wide, wobbly, hybrid storm, was closing in on the Gulf Coast on Friday evening, but appeared to have moved southward far enough to no longer pose a serious threat to Okaloosa, Santa Rosa or Walton counties.


At 4 p.m., the National Hurricane Center was predicting landfall somewhere between Panama City Beach and areas east, but the threat to even Bay County seemed considerably diminished.


"It is broken up and out of kilter. It is extremely wobbly and seems to be moving east, where we’re getting more and more onto the western edge," Bay County Emergency Management Specialist Frankie Lumm said at a 5 p.m. press conference.



At 5:47 p.m., the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, announced that tropical storm warnings had been canceled for Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties. Walton County remained under the warning.


Bay County officials announced the opening of an emergency shelter at Deane Bozeman School on State Highway 77 in Panama City. The shelter opened at 5 p.m. and was to be shut down at noon today, officials said. Lumm said officials decided to open the school for those who might not have returned to secure shelter since Hurricane Michael.



Lumm said the speed with which the storm was moving would reduce the chances of sustained rainfall and therefore flooding, and he labeled storm surge estimated at 1 to 3 feet "very positive for us."


While Nestor was expected to pass over many of the same areas that were devastated by Hurricane Michael only a year ago, and Lumm said he had detected some trepidation among the locals, many people in Bay County seemed confident that Nestor was a storm they could weather.


"From a city standpoint and based on the people I’ve talked to, I don’t see any kind of stress level. I don’t see or sense that this is anything we can’t handle," said Al Cathey, the mayor of Mexico Beach, where Michael made landfall last Oct. 10. "We got kicked in the teeth by Michael, and I don’t think a tropical depression is gonna create any type level of anxiety that is going to cause us problems."


Skies were overcast and light rain fell across the Panhandle for most of the day Friday as residents braced for the worst and hoped for the best. Heavy wind and rain hadn’t arrived as of mid-afternoon in Mexico Beach, and Michael Foster, born in raised in the tiny town made famous by the blow it took from last year’s hurricane, was casting for redfish.


Tropical Storm Nestor is approaching Mexico Beach, but Michael Foster isn’t worried. Friday he and a friend fished near the city’s canal and tomorrow plans to surf. #florida #mexicobeach #tropicalstormnestor https://t.co/XUXC9GEERP pic.twitter.com/erkkZo3psH

— Joshua Boucher (@JAABPhoto) October 18, 2019

"I’m not really too worried about this one," Foster said. "I kept an eye on it, and of course its scary being one year from Michael, but I think it’s just a coincidence."


For Morgan Ryfee, who works at Mexico Beach’s Mango Marley’s, when people began talking about Nestor striking Bay County, "we were just like, ‘Oh great. Another one.’ But then we realized this one is not really another one.


"I mean high winds and rain, lots of rain like we’re getting now, but I don’t really think anybody is too worried about it," Ryfee added. "Jason and I, my co-worker, have been joking that its name is Nestor, so it can’t be that bad."


Morgan Ryfee works at Mango Marley’s in Mexico Beach. The main preparation the restaurant is going to do before the storm is bring in the paper towels from the tent dinning area. pic.twitter.com/or1foab7ql

— Joshua Boucher (@JAABPhoto) October 18, 2019

Tyndall Air Force Base is only a year removed from devastating destruction inflicted by Hurricane Michael. On Oct. 11, a day after the one-year anniversary of the Category 5 storm’s arrival, 325th Fighter Wing commander Col. Brian Laidlaw wrote, "Like nearly all of you, I've spent the last year focusing on each day, one at a time, sometimes one hour at a time."


Nestor was approaching as Tyndall finds itself in the middle of a massive rebuilding program that will prepare it for a new mission of hosting as many as three F-35 stealth fighter jet squadrons. The base now houses 80 percent of the personnel it had before the storm, Laidlaw said.


Base leaders were monitoring Nestor on Friday afternoon "and will continue to as it progresses," said Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves, the non-commissioned officer in charge of command information and media relations at the base.


"Tyndall Air Force Base, the 325th Fighter Wing (the base's host unit), and the multiple tenant units stationed here are taking precautionary measures to protect resources and personnel," Reeves said in an email that did not provide any details about those measures. "We have advised personnel to expect heavy rain and possible flooding, maintain open lines of communication with the base as well as their families, and to be safe."


Just west of Bay County, Walton County officials moved early to upgrade their emergency management status to Level 2.


They, along with emergency managers in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties, were expecting heavy rain and were monitoring the storm.


The storm was expected to bring between 2 and 4 inches of rains to Northwest Florida. High surf and dangerous rip currents were predicted and some local flooding was expected.


Tropical Storm Nestor’s push across the Gulf of Mexico couldn’t keep participants in the Destin Fishing Rodeo from getting out into the Gulf on Friday morning.


Helen Donaldson, the Fishing Rodeo's executive director, said fishermen were reporting bumpy seas well out from Destin Harbor, but "in close it was not that bad."


And the fishing was good enough early in the day that a second place-sized king mackerel had been brought in early for weighing, Donaldson said.


Rodeo officials did order a temporary halt to the fishing at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The tournament will re-open at 2 p.m. today


Erin Franczak and Josh Boucher contributed to this story


Jon Dillenbeck is more worried about those who haven’t been able to fully repair their homes in Mexico Beach than he is about his own home’s storm worthiness. pic.twitter.com/c7vl71NhgH

— Joshua Boucher (@JAABPhoto) October 18, 2019