Tropical Storm Nate is expected to directly hit Louisiana as a hurricane late Saturday or early Sunday, triggering precautions throughout much of the Gulf Coast.
Nate killed at least 21 people as it passed Thursday over Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, where it caused widespread flash flooding and mudslides. Nate is expected to gain strength as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico Friday and likely strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the Gulf Coast.
The eye of the storm is likely to hit about 50 miles east of New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Hurricane National Hurricane Center issued a storm surge warning for Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida line, as well as for the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.
“Residents in these areas should heed any evacuation instructions given by local officials,” the hurricane center said, adding that Nate will bring winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall.
Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for all of Louisiana and Mayor Mitch Landrieu did the same for New Orleans.
“There is no need to panic,” Landrieu tweeted. “Be ready and prepare. Get a plan. Prepare to protect your personal property.”
Louisiana National Guard soldiers have been in Puerto Rico, helping with recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria. More than 1,000 state guardsmen have been mobilized in preparations for Nate, with some going to New Orleans to monitor drainage pumps that are already damaged.
Florida, still reeling from Hurricane Irma, is largely out of the forecast cone, but hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge watches were issued late Friday from the state’s border with Alabama east as far as Indian Pass. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 29 counties and cautioned residents to be prepared in case Nate’s forecast track changes. Evacuations could be needed, he said.