Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon for 29 Florida counties, including Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa.

Emergency officials in Northwest Florida said Thursday they are closely monitoring the track of Tropical Storm Nate and gearing up for any potential impacts on the region.

Thursday’s models from the National Hurricane Center showed Nate’s trajectory heading toward the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coasts,

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon for 29 Florida counties, including Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa.

“Tropical Storm Nate is headed north toward our state and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said in a press release. “I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Tropical Storm Nate, and while current forecast models have the storm’s center west of Florida, we must be vigilant and get prepared."

As of Thursday night, Nate had been blamed for at least 22 deaths in Central America.

Local emergency management officials cautioned that even though the center of the storm was projected to land to the west, severe weather still could affect the area over the weekend. Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg said storm surges were a threat.   

“A lot of (the weather) will depend upon the track, obviously, and the track the past couple advisories has been sliding somewhat west, which is not necessarily good news for Walton County because a lot of the heavy weather is on the east side,” Goldberg said. “If we’re on the east side of the storm, that could also mean we’re going to get some storm surge.”

Randy McDaniel, chief of emergency management for Okaloosa County, said the area could see severe thunderstorms with possible tornadoes beginning late Saturday and into Sunday morning.

“We are still in the position where we’ve prepared for possible impact,” McDaniel said. “It looks like a Sunday morning time frame or Sunday afternoon late. It’s really depending on how long it stays over land (on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico).”

Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Brandi Whitehurst said the county was preparing sand for residents ahead of the storm.

“Santa Rosa County is making limited supplies of sand available at no cost at several locations,” she said in an email. “Sand bags are available at local home improvement stores for purchase (Hall's Hardware in Milton, Lowe's in Midway and Pace). Bring shovels to fill and load your own bags. The locations for sand are Leisure Street at Citrus Drive in Holley By the Sea, Tiger Point Park in Gulf Breeze, Pace Fire-Rescue in Pace and the corner of Pine Forest Road and Carroll Road in Milton.”

Eglin Air Force Base was at “hurricane condition 4” Thursday, meaning the base was preparing for destructive winds of 58 mph or greater.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore was closed to visitors Thursday evening and will remain closed until the storm passes.

The University of West Florida announced Thursday that all its campuses, courses and activities will be canceled from Saturday until noon Monday. Normal business will resume Tuesday unless conditions change.