Las Ve­gas les­sons

New Or­leans pre­pares for the worst as an­other trop­i­cal storm bears down on the US main­land.

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New Or­leans evac­u­ated some res­i­dents from ar­eas out­side its levee sys­tem as Trop­i­cal Storm Nate swirled to­wards the US Gulf Coast overnight af­ter killing at least 25 peo­ple in Cen­tral Amer­ica.

Nate is set to be­come a Cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane, the weak­est on a five­cat­e­gory scale used by me­te­o­rol­o­gists, 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 from this par­tic­u­lar storm was not rain but strong winds and storm surge, Lan­drieu said. The winds could cause sig­nif­i­cant power out­ages, and storm surges were pro­jected to be 1.8 to 2.7 me­tres high, he added.

‘‘We have been through this many, many times. There is no need to panic,’’ Lan­drieu told a news con­fer­ence.

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 (NHC) in Mi­ami.

Nate had max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 97kmh, the NHC said.

In the US, a state of emer­gency has been de­clared for 29 Florida coun­ties and states near Nate’s path – Alabama, Louisiana and Mis­sis­sippi – as well as the city of New Or­leans, which was dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005.

The NHC has is­sued a hur­ri­cane watch from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida bor­der.

Nearly three-quar­ters of US Gulf of Mex­ico oil pro­duc­tion was off­line ahead of the storm, and more oil com­pa­nies were halt­ing op­er­a­tions yes­ter­day. The US De­part­ment of the In­te­rior’s Bu­reau of Safety and En­vi­ron­men­tal En­force­ment said oil com­pa­nies had evac­u­ated staff from 66 plat­forms and five drilling rigs,

Nate was mov­ing north­north­west at 34kmh, a fast pace which if main­tained 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, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said.

Thou­sands were forced to evac­u­ate their homes, and Costa Rica’s gov­ern­ment de­clared a state of emer­gency.

Costa Ri­can Pres­i­dent Luis Guillermo So­lis urged res­i­dents to re­main vig­i­lant, not­ing that the rains were likely to re­sume.

In Hon­duras, res­i­dents won­dered whether they would have to flee. Norma Chavez and her two chil­dren anx­iously watched a river rise out­side their home in Tegu­ci­galpa, the cap­i­tal. ‘‘We are wor­ried that it will grow more and carry away

Chavez, 45.

New Or­leans res­i­dents are ques­tion­ing whether the city’s net­work of 120 pumps will be pow­er­ful enough to drain any flood­wa­ters from Nate. Of­fi­cials, seek­ing to calm nerves in the city of about the house,’’ said 340,000, vowed yes­ter­day that the pumps should be ad­e­quate, de­spite re­cent fail­ures that al­lowed flood­ing in even mild rains.

‘‘I don’t have full con­fi­dence in those pumps,’’ said Hum­berto Suazo, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Link Restau­rant Group in up­town New Or­leans. ‘‘We have had so many mixed mes­sages.’’

Mem­o­ries of the deadly flood­ing from Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, which in­un­dated much of New Or­leans, are still fresh on the minds of many res­i­dents.

Lan­drieu said he had or­dered the city’s Sew­er­age and Wa­ter Board (SWB) to boost staffing at pump­ing sta­tions dur­ing the storm, and ‘‘con­trac­tors are be­gin­ning work 24/7 to fix pumps’’.

Ques­tions about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the city’s drainage sys­tems swirled af­ter an Au­gust 5 storm dumped up to 15 cen­time­tres of rain, caus­ing street flood­ing and un­der­passes to fill.

The SWB said it had im­proved or re­paired pumps since that storm and im­proved the abil­ity to power the pumps. Re­nee Lapey­ro­lerie, its in­terim com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, said 26 backup power gen­er­a­tors had been added.

‘‘Since the Au­gust 5 event we have been work­ing 24/7 to be bet­ter pre­pared for rain­storms,’’ Lapey­ro­lerie said. ‘‘We’re in a much bet­ter po­si­tion now.’’

Res­i­dents are es­pe­cially wary af­ter Hur­ri­cane Harvey flooded huge ar­eas of Hous­ton in late Au­gust with more than 1.27m of rain.

‘‘If we get 50 inches (1.27m), there would be no way to pump that much wa­ter out of here,’’ said Steve Wat­son, owner of King­pin bar and Mid­way Pizza in up­town New Or­leans. ‘‘Even 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38cm) of rain, some low-ly­ing ar­eas are go­ing to be af­fected.’’


Emer­gency ser­vices work­ers in Costa Rica look at a sec­tion of the coun­try’s main north-south high­way de­stroyed by Trop­i­cal Storm Nate in Casa Mata.


New Or­leans res­i­dents fill sand­bags in prepa­ra­tion for Nate’s ar­rival. A state of emer­gency has been de­clared for the city, which was dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005.


Peo­ple cross a river flooded by heavy rains brought by Nate in Nandaime, Nicaragua.

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