Louisiana battens down
Tropical storm Nate heads for southern US after killing 25 people in Central America.
New Orleans evacuated some residents outside its levee system as Tropical Storm Nate swirled toward the US Gulf Coast after killing at least 25 people in Central America.
Nate is set to become a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on a fivecategory scale, by the time it hits the US central Gulf Coast today.
“Nate is at our doorstep or will be soon,” New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said. The greatest threat was not rain, but strong winds and storm surge, he said.
The winds could cause significant power outages, and storm surges are projected to be 1.8m to 2.7m high.
“We have been through this many, many times. There is no need to panic,” Landrieu said.
Yesterday the storm was expected to brush by Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, home to beach resorts such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen, before heading north into the Gulf of Mexico, according to the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami. Nate was blowing maximum sustained winds of 95 km/h and was about 120km east of the Mexican resort island of Cozumel early yesterday, the NHC said.
A state of emergency was declared for 29 Florida counties and states near Nate’s path — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — as well as the city of New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The NHC issued a hurricane watch from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border.
“By [today] you should be in your safe place,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told a news conference. “This is a fast-moving storm and we must begin preparing now.”
Nearly three-quarters of US Gulf of Mexico oil production was offline ahead of the storm, and more oil companies were halting operations. Yesterday Nate was moving northnorthwest at 35km/h, a fast pace which could mean the storm does less damage when it hits land.
The storm doused Central America with heavy rains on Friday, killing at least 12 people in Nicaragua, nine in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two in El Salvador.