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UPDATE: Hurricane Nate Moves Closer to Mississippi Coast

Officials warned of life-threatening storm surge over parts of the Gulf Coast, which could see flood waters reach up to nine feet above ground level; expected to make landfall Saturday night.

THE LATEST ON HURRICANE NATE: 

 

Hurricane Nate will make landfall as a category 2 early Sunday morning.

 

Hurricane Nate is moving closer to the Mississippi coast and is expected to come ashore near Biloxi with winds of about 85 mph (137 kph).

The National Hurricane Center said Nate was about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Biloxi. Forecasters say it will make landfall within the next hour or two. After that, the center of the storm will move across the Deep South, Tennessee Valley and central Appalachian Mountains through Monday.

Nate is expected to weaken after landfall.

The storm made its first landfall in a sparsely populated area of southeast Louisiana.

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New Orleans’ mayor is lifting a curfew as Hurricane Nate passes by and appears to spare the city known for its all-night partying.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Saturday night that he lifted the curfew because the National Weather Service cancelled a hurricane warning for city.

He still recommends people shelter in place because of the tropical storm-force winds. Some of the watering holes along the well-known bar-hopping Bourbon Street closed while others stayed open, despite the curfew.

The streets were not as crowded as a typical Saturday night.

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Hurricane Nate has made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 storm with winds of 85 mph (74 kph).

The National Hurricane Center said Saturday night that Nate is expected to make a second landfall along the coast of Mississippi on Saturday night and then pass over parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

The storm has weakened slightly and is moving north a little slower at 20 mph (32 kph). Evacuations have been ordered along the central Gulf Coast and people are hunkering down as they wait on the storm.

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Officials say they have had to rescue people from two sailboats as Hurricane Nate approaches the Gulf Coast, kicking up high waves and winds.

The first rescue happened about 12 p.m. Saturday when two people had to be helped off a 41-foot sailboat that lost its engine in Lake Pontchartrain. The Coast Guard says both sailors were in stable condition.

The second rescue occurred in the Mississippi Sound. Melissa Scallon, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, says a distress call came in around 3 p.m. Saturday after a sailboat struck rocks at Bayou Caddy west of Waveland.

Scallon says the state Marine Patrol responded and plucked three people from the water. She says they were not hurt.

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The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Hurricane Nate is about 50 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River at Louisiana’s southeastern tip. The storm is moving north-northwest toward the Gulf Coast at an unusually fast 23 mph (37 kph).

With maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), Nate had not gained strength as of the center’s 4 p.m. advisory. But forecasters said it might still reach Category 2 strength of 96 mph or more by the time it makes landfall.

Nate was on a track that could take it over or near the mouth of the Mississippi by around 7 p.m. on its way to a later landfall on the Louisiana or Mississippi coast.

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Officials in Alabama and Mississippi say their states are starting to see impacts from the fast-approaching Hurricane Nate.

On Alabama’s Dauphin Island, Mayor Jeff Collier reports water had already begun washing over the road on the island’s low-lying west end.

The city of Gulf Shores, meanwhile, has issued an evacuation order for beachfront properties, and shelters have been opened along the state’s coastal counties.

In Mississippi, state Emergency Management Director Lee Smithson said 67 people were already in shelters in two coastal counties while strong winds and high tides were driving Gulf of Mexico waters over roads near the Louisiana state line.

And Gov. Phil Bryant says the state’s National Guard has mobilized 75 soldiers and the Highway Patrol has moved an additional 60 state troopers into south Mississippi.

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Airports in some southern states are closing in anticipation of Hurricane Nate.

The Pensacola International Airport in Florida and the Mobile Regional Airport in Alabama say they are closing Saturday before the storm makes landfall.

The Florida airport said it will close by 6 p.m., remain closed through Sunday and hopefully resume operations Monday morning.

Officials at the Alabama airport said they hope to reopen Sunday around noon.

Officials at the airports say passengers should contact their airlines for information about rebooking flights.

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Then-Tropical Storm Nate caused damage near Goascoran, Honduras, Friday and was blamed for several deaths across Central America. It strengthened to a hurricane as it made its way toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.

More than 40 percent of manned oil- and gas-producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated, according to an update from the Interior Department, as Hurricane Nate churns toward the U.S. mainland.

The Department said Saturday that workers were evacuated from 312 of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf.

Crews also have been taken off 13 of 20 manned drilling rigs and other rigs have been moved out of the storm’s path.

About one-fifth of U.S. oil is produced in the Gulf. The platforms mostly avoided Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Nate is speeding north-northwest over the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night along the central U.S. Gulf Coast — likely with Category 2 strength.

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Governors in Louisiana and Florida are urging residents to make final preparations for Hurricane Nate’s impending arrival.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday that people in the southeastern part of the state should hunker down by 3 p.m.

He says the storm’s eye is expected to make landfall about four hours later, likely bringing limited rain but powerful storm surges and strong winds.

The state National Guard, meanwhile, has mobilized 1,300 troops and positioned high-water vehicles, boats and even school buses from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to help with rescues.

Edwards said he also spoke with President Trump Saturday morning, who assured him the federal government was prepared to respond as well.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the roughly 100,000 residents in evacuation zones should heed warnings, stick to their emergency plan and stay vigilant for updates from local officials.

He said the hurricane could bring not just storm surges and strong winds to the Panhandle, but also tornadoes.

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Early voting is wrapping up sooner than scheduled in parts of Louisiana because of Hurricane Nate.

Meg Casper Sunstrom, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said voters in some southeastern parishes will have until 3 p.m. on Saturday to cast their ballots early.

The parishes affected are in the New Orleans-area, including Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and St. Tammany parishes.

Early voting will continue to close at 6 p.m. in the state’s other parishes.

Saturday is the last day of the week-long early voting period. Louisiana has a statewide election Oct. 14, and New Orleans has a hotly contested mayor’s race on the ballot.

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The National Weather Service is placing much of Alabama under a tropical storm warning.

Forecasters said Saturday that Hurricane Nate could bring wind gusts of up to 60 mph (95 kph) across much of the central part of the state, which includes Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

The storm is expected to down trees and cause significant power outages. Isolated tornadoes were also possible Sunday afternoon.

On Alabama’s Gulf coast, some communities have already imposed mandatory curfews from Saturday evening through Sunday morning. They’ve also ordered beaches and fishing piers closed and issued voluntary evacuation orders.

On Florida’s Panhandle, officials have ordered evacuations in some low-lying areas. They’re also warning beachgoers to stay out of the Gulf of Mexico as the storm is already whipping up deadly rip currents and rough surf.

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Flood-prone underpasses in New Orleans will be blocked to traffic in anticipation of possible heavy rain from Hurricane Nate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu made the announcement Saturday as Nate was moving swiftly toward the northern Gulf Coast.

Motorists who stall their cars while trying to drive through high water at the underpasses are a recurring problem during heavy rains. The move to block access to underpasses comes as the city works to fix recently revealed weaknesses in its drainage system.

Nate was on a forecast track taking it past Louisiana’s southeast tip by around 7 p.m., heading for an expected Mississippi landfall.

Among precautions in Mississippi: transportation officials say highway crews are lowering the high masts that hold street lights to keep the lights from becoming projectiles in expected high winds.

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Some oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are being shut down as Hurricane Nate churns toward the U.S. mainland.

Federal officials said Friday that workers were evacuated from 66 oil- and gas-producing platforms in the Gulf, about 9 percent of the total of manned facilities.

The Interior Department says crews also have been taken off five drilling rigs and other rigs have been moved out of the storm’s path.

About one-fifth of U.S. oil is produced in the Gulf. The platforms mostly avoided Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Nate is speeding north-northwest over the central Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasters say the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night along the central U.S. Gulf Coast.

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Strengthening Hurricane Nate is now expected to be a Category 2 hurricane at landfall on the central Gulf Coast in coming hours.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Nate’s top sustained winds have recently risen to 90 mph (150 kph) and the core is now about 180 miles (285 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

As of 10 a.m. CDT Saturday, Nate was accelerating to 26 mph (43 kph) and headed north-northwest on a course expected to take it onto the central Gulf Coast on Saturday night. Forecasters say the hurricane-force winds extend out up to 35 miles (55 kph), mainly to the east of the eye.

In addition to hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings already in place along a wide stretch of Gulf Coast, a new tropical storm warning has been issued in the Florida Panhandle from east of the Okaloosa-Walton County line to Indian Pass, Florida.

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As Hurricane Nate churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico toward American shores, it is growing in strength and speed after leaving a trail of devastation in Central America.

In its 7 a.m., CDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm was located about 245 miles south southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and headed north northwest with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.

“We are expecting Nate to continue to strengthen today (Saturday),” said Mike Brennan, senior hurricane specialist with the NHC. “We are expecting the hurricane to make landfall on the north central Gulf Coast late tonight or early Sunday morning.”

A hurricane warning is in effect from Grand Isle near the southern tip of Louisiana stretching to the Alabama/Florida border, including metropolitan New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“Everybody in this area needs to prepare for hurricane force winds,” Brennan said, adding, “we are very concerned about storm surge.”

A storm surge warning covers much of the region, including around Lake Pontchartrain in the New Orleans area. Forecasters said flood waters could reach 9 feet above ground level, “so that is life-threatening,” Brennan said.

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the NHC said in its advisory.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking residents to be prepared for the storm by 8 p.m., local time Saturday, with supplies stockpiled and avoiding being on the roads. “This is going to be a nighttime event,” he said while landfall is expected “very early on Sunday morning.”

Projected three-day path of Hurricane Nate.

A mandatory curfew begins at 7 p.m., local time Saturday in New Orleans and lasts “until the risk has passed,” said the city police department in a statement.

Grand Isle is under a mandatory evacuation as are parts of New Orleans that fall outside the city’s storm protection system, reports The Times-Picayune.

 

Officials in Mississippi recommended evacuations for all low-lying areas and for people living near waterways and in mobile homes.

On Friday President Trump approved an emergency declaration for Louisiana, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate relief efforts.

 

Also Friday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a State of Emergency and authorized the use of State National Guard troops.

“Regardless of where the storm makes actual landfall, we face the possibility of widespread power outages and storm surge flooding,” Bryant said in a statement. “I ask everyone to please have a plan, especially those that live in mobile homes and low-lying areas.”

Earlier in the week, Nate was a weaker Tropical Storm, but heavy wind and rain and subsequent flooding were blamed for several deaths in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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