Hurricane Nate made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on the southeastern Louisiana coast Saturday night.
The Category 1 storm packing 85 mph winds weakened slightly as it roared onshore on a path that was likely to spare New Orleans from its most severe impacts.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordered a curfew to be lifted after the National Weather Service canceled a hurricane warning for the Big Easy.
“There is still a serious threat of storm surge for areas outside of levee protection and residents should continue to monitor local news and take precautions,” Landrieu’s office said in a statement.
As Nate bore down on the northern Gulf coast, authorities rescued five people from two sailboats caught in the storm. No injuries were reported.
Video emerged of water rushing through the streets of Biloxi, Miss., late Saturday night as officials braced for a storm surge that could top 10 feet.
Nate killed at least 30 people as it swept through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras as a tropical storm last week.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami warned of strong gusts, rains and a significant storm surge that could spell disaster for several Southern states.
A state of emergency was declared in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and for more than two dozen counties in Florida, shipping ports have been closed and oil and gas platforms in the Gulf are being shut down.
“The threat is real for Alabama,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said at a Saturday night press conference.
Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft detected that Nate, moving along at a brisk 23 mph, strengthened as it passed over the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, according to the hurricane center.
Officials in New Orleans sought to calm nerves ahead of the storm’s arrival in the U.S.
“We have been through this many, many times. There is no need to panic,” Landrieu said at a news conference.
The Crescent City, which had instituted a mandatory 7 p.m. curfew over the weekend, knows too well the havoc that a storm can bring. Parts of New Orleans were laid to waste 12 years ago by Hurricane Katrina, which triggered severe flooding and killed hundreds of people.
“We’re in the fight now,” Landrieu said as winds picked up and rains began to fall. Lines were short at a Lowe’s hardware store in the St. Roch area of New Orleans and there was no shortage of propane, generators and plywood.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nate’s sustained winds have risen to 90 mph and warned strong winds, rains and a significant storm surge could spell disaster for several Southern states.
“They don’t start boarding up until it’s a Category 3,” employee Paula Clemons told the Associated Press. “We’re used to floods. Comes with the territory.”
Rains were lashing other parts of the Gulf Coast Saturday, washing out roads on Alabama’s Dauphin Island and sending at least 67 people in Mississippi to shelters, officials said.
The city of Gulf Shores, Ala., issued an evacuation order for beachfront properties, and shelters have been opened along the state’s coastal counties.
Shelters opened in several of the coastal states as the storm moved closer.
The hurricane center also warned “a couple of tornadoes will be possible” starting late Saturday over parts of the central Gulf Coast region.
The storm comes amid one of the most destructive hurricane seasons in recent years.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have killed more than 170 people after ravaging Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other parts of the Caribbean.
Nate tore through Central America with heavy rains sparking mudslides and flash floods on Thursday, killing at least 16 people in Nicaragua, 10 in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two others in El Salvador.
On Friday and Saturday, it strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane as it skirted past Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, sweeping the beach resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
A White House statement said President Trump authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate all federal disaster relief efforts.
The statement said the move is intended to speed aid, save lives and protect property and public safety in the region.
The Trump administration faced intense criticism for the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
With News Wire Services