Nate Strengthens to Category 1 Hurricane as It Closes In on Northern U.S. Gulf Coast

Intensifying Hurricane Nate is closing in on the northern U.S. Gulf Coast. Southeast Louisiana, including vulnerable New Orleans, lies in the path – although the worst conditions may end up just to its east in coastal Mississippi and Alabama.

Nate should make landfall between late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Damaging winds, gusting as high as 100 mph, and flooding threaten the region from roughly Morgan City, La., to Pensacola, Fla. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have all declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm.

Along the coast, near and just to the east of where the storm center moves ashore, a storm surge or rise in ocean water of up to 5 to 9 feet above normally dry land is expected, which could inundate homes, businesses, and roads. “Life-threatening storm surge flooding is likely along portions of the northern Gulf Coast, and a storm surge warning has been issued from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa/Walton county line in Florida,” the National Hurricane Center said.

The Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings for southeastern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and Alabama, including New Orleans, Biloxi and Mobile. Rainbands and tropical-storm force winds could begin there as soon as Saturday afternoon.

“[P]reparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in these areas,” the Hurricane Center said.

Over the warm waters of the Caribbean, Nate strengthened and became much better-organized Friday before moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico overnight, when it was classified a hurricane. At 8 a.m. Saturday, it packed 85 mph maximum winds while centered 245 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is racing to the north-northwest at 22 mph.

The storm could gain a little more strength as it traverses the warm waters of the central Gulf before slamming into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Saturday night or early Sunday.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Jason Samenow and Brian McNoldy