Tropical Storm Nate strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane late Friday as it moved towards the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it threatened to bring rain and storm surges to parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, forecasters said.
The hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, was “booking toward the central Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said at 2 a.m. ET Saturday. The storm was about 420 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and was moving north-northwest at 22 mph, the hurricane center said.
The storm, which is blamed in deaths in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, could make landfall in the United States Saturday evening or Saturday night, the hurricane center said.
Hurricane warnings were in place for metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, and a stretch of coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border.
“Nate is at our doorstep, or will be soon,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a press conference Friday. The city is under a state of emergency. New Orleans could see between 3 to 6 inches of rain in all, Landrieu said, but he said wind and storm surge posed the greatest risk.
States of emergency were declared in Alabama and Louisiana. “Alabamians, you must prepare and remain vigilant — this is serious business,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said at a news conference Friday. She said the effects will begin to be felt as early as Saturday afternoon.
“By Saturday noon, you should be in your safe place,” Ivey said.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine and Irish Bayou sections of New Orleans. Landrieu urged people to stay off the roads starting Saturday evening through Sunday. He said residents should stock up on supplies.
Eleven deaths have been reported in Nicaragua, 10 deaths were reported in Costa Rica, and one person was reported killed in Honduras, officials said.
Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters