8 P.M. UPDATE: Hurricane Nate made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Nate was expected to pass to the east of New Orleans, sparing the city its most ferocious winds and storm surge, according to The Associated Press. Cities along the Mississippi coast such as Gulfport and Biloxi were on high alert. Rain began falling on the region Saturday and forecasters called for 3 to 6 inches with as much as 10 inches in some isolated places.
Governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama declared states of emergency. The three states have been mostly spared during this hectic hurricane season.
5 P.M. UPDATE: Rainfall from fast-moving Hurricane Nate is lashing southeast Louisiana as the 90-mph storm heads for an evening landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the storm’s eye is expected to make landfall in the area near the mouth of the Mississippi River around 7 p.m., likely as a Category 2 hurricane, according to The Associated Press. He urged residents to make final preparations quickly and stressed that Nate will bring the possibility of storm surge reaching up to 11 feet in some coastal areas and strong winds.
“It’s going to hit and move through our area at a relatively fast rate, limiting the amount of time it’s going to drop rain,” Edwards said. “But this is a very dangerous storm nonetheless.”
At 5 p.m., Nate was about 80 miles south of the Mississippi River and moving north-northwest at 23 mph. Tropical storm conditiions are spreading onshore in southeastern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
Some low-lying areas of the state were seeing localized street flooding, the AP story says. Certain coastal areas of Louisiana outside of levee protections are under mandatory evacuation orders. Shelters were opened in parishes with evacuation orders.
Hurricane conditions were expected along the northern Gulf Coast. A state of emergency was declared for Mississippi’s six southernmost counties. Residents there and in coastal Alabama were warned to take shelter or get out of the storm’s way.
“This is the worst hurricane that has impacted Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina,” Mississippi Emergency Management Director Lee Smithson said at a Saturday briefing. “Everyone needs to understand that, that this is a significantly dangerous situation.”
On Alabama’s Dauphin Island, water had already begun washing over the road Saturday on the island’s low-lying west end, said Mayor Jeff Collier. The storm was projected to bring storm surges from seven to 11 feet near the Alabama-Mississippi state line. Some of the biggest impacts could be at the top of funnel-shaped Mobile Bay.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott asked Donald Trump to declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state to prepare and respond to Hurricane Nate. Such a declaration would enable resources and assistance from the federal government.
The National Hurricane Center warns that a strengthening Hurricane Nate is expected to reach Category 2 strength at landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast tonight.
At 2 p.m., Nate had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and was speeding north-northwest at 25 mph. Its outer rainbands were already being felt in southeastern Louisiana. The threshold for Category 2 is 96 mph winds.
Nate was about 105 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 195 miles south of Biloxi, Miss., according to the latest hurricane center advisory.
A Hurricane warning is in effect for the area between Grand Isle, La., to the Alabama/Florida border; plus metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
There are also storm surge warnings, tropical storm warnings, a hurricane watch, a storm surge watch and tropical storm watch across a wide swath of the Gulf Coast.