Gulf Coast residents scrambled to finalize storm preparations as Hurricane Nate raced swiftly over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, gaining added strength as forecasters said it would smash into the U.S. coast during the night.
Louisiana’s governor urged his state’s residents to take Nate seriously, saying the storm “has the potential to do a lot of damage.”
“No one should take this storm lightly. It has already claimed the lives of at least 20 people,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. “We do want people to be very, very cautious and to not take this storm for granted.”
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane overnight with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, moving quickly through the Gulf of Mexico at 22 mph as of Saturday morning. At 8 a.m. ET Saturday, it was about 245 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border and also included metropolitan New Orleans nearby Lake Pontchartrain. A tropical storm warning extended west of Grand Isle to Morgan City, Louisiana, and around Lake Maurepas and east of the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle.
States of emergency were declared in all three states as Nate which has already killed at least 21 people in Central America became the latest in a succession of destructive storms this hurricane season.
The White House released a statement already saying Louisiana’s emergency declaration covering had been approved, adding President Donald Trump authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate all federal disaster relief efforts. Such statements are intended to speed aid, save lives and protect property and public safety.
Edwards said forecasts for the fast-moving storm indicate the greatest risks are winds and storm surge, rather than intense amounts of rain. Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect for southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.
In the listening area, Nate will enter the area tomorrow (Sunday, October 8, 2017) as a minimal tropical storm or depression. It is expected to bring anywhere from 2 to 5 inches of rain with higher amounts possible. The storm will quickly leave the area Monday morning. Wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour is possible.