Nate makes land­fall; wind, rain lash coast

Hur­ri­cane weak­ens slightly; New Or­leans mayor lifts cur­few

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Janet Mc­Connaughey, Melinda Deslatte and Jeff Amy

NEW OR­LEANS — Hur­ri­cane Nate came ashore at the mouth of the Mis­sis­sippi River on Satur­day and pelted the cen­tral Gulf Coast with wind and rain as the fast-mov­ing storm steamed to­ward the Mis­sis­sippi coast, where it was ex­pected to make an­other land­fall and threat­ened to in­un­date homes and busi­nesses in vul­ner­a­ble low-ly­ing ar­eas.

Nate was ex­pected to pass to the east of New Or­leans, spar­ing the city its most fe­ro­cious winds and storm surge. And its quick speed de­creased the like­li­hood of pro­longed rain that would tax the city’s weak­ened drainage pump sys­tem.

The city was placed un­der a cur­few, ef­fec­tive at 7 p.m., but its mayor an­nounced later Satur­day that he was lift­ing it be­cause the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice had can­celed a hur­ri­cane warn­ing for the city.

Ci­ties along the Mis­sis­sippi coast, such as Gulf­port and Biloxi, were on high alert. Some beach­front ho­tels and casi­nos were evac­u­ated. Rain be­gan fall­ing on the re­gion Satur­day and fore­cast­ers called for 3 to 6 inches with as much as 10 inches in some iso­lated places.

Nate weak­ened slightly and was a Cat­e­gory 1 storm with max­i­mum winds of 85 mph when it made land­fall in a sparsely pop­u­lated area of Plaque­m­ines Par­ish. Fore­cast­ers feared it could strengthen to a Cat­e­gory 2, but that seemed less likely as the night wore on.

Storm surge threat­ened low-ly­ing com­mu­ni­ties in south­east Louisiana, east­ward to the Alabama fish­ing vil­lage of Bayou la Ba­tre.

“If it floods again, this will be it. I can’t live on prom­ises,” said Larry Bertron said as he and his wife pre­pared to leave their home in the Braith­waite com­mu­nity of vul­ner­a­ble Plaque­m­ines Par­ish. The hur­ri­cane vet­er­ans lost one home to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005 and left the home they re­built af­ter Hur­ri­cane Isaac in 2012.

Gov­er­nors in Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama de­clared states of emer­gency. The three states have been mostly spared dur­ing this hec­tic hur­ri­cane sea­son.

“This is the worst hur­ri­cane that has im­pacted Mis­sis­sippi since Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina,” Mis­sis­sippi Emer­gency Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Lee Smith­son said Satur­day. “Ev­ery­one needs to un­der­stand that, that this is a sig­nif­i­cantly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards urged res­i­dents to make fi­nal prepa­ra­tions quickly and stressed that Nate will bring the pos­si­bil­ity of storm surge reach­ing up to 11 feet in some coastal ar­eas.

“It’s go­ing to hit and move through our area at a rel­a­tively fast rate, lim­it­ing the amount of time it’s go­ing to drop rain,” Ed­wards said. “But this is a very dan­ger­ous storm none­the­less.”

Streets in low-ly­ing ar­eas of Louisiana were al­ready flooded. Places out­side of levee pro­tec­tions were un­der manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders and shel­ters opened there.

Some peo­ple wor­ried about New Or­leans’ pump­ing sys­tem, which had prob­lems dur­ing a heavy thun­der­storm on Aug. 5. The del­uge ex­posed sys­tem weak­nesses — in­clud­ing the fail­ure of some pumps and tur­bines — and caused homes and busi­nesses to flood. Re­pairs have been made but the sys­tem re­mained be­low max­i­mum pump­ing ca­pac­ity.

On Alabama’s Dauphin Is­land, wa­ter washed over the road Satur­day on the is­land’s low-ly­ing west end, said Mayor Jeff Collier. The storm was pro­jected to bring storm surges from seven to 11 feet near the Alabama-Mis­sis­sippi state line. Some of the big­gest im­pacts could be at the top of fun­nel-shaped Mobile Bay.

The win­dow for pre­par­ing “is quickly clos­ing,” Alabama Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency Di­rec­tor Brian Hastings said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned res­i­dents of the Pan­han­dle to pre­pare for Nate’s im­pact.

“Hur­ri­cane Nate is ex­pected to bring life-threat­en­ing storm surges, strong winds and tor­na­does that could reach across the Pan­han­dle,” Scott said. The evac­u­a­tions af­fect roughly 100,000 res­i­dents in the western Pan­han­dle.

While water­side sec­tions of New Or­leans, out­side the city’s levee sys­tem, were un­der an evac­u­a­tion or­der, not ev­ery­one was com­ply­ing.

Gabriel Black stayed be­hind be­cause an 81-year-old neigh­bor re­fused to leave.

“I know it sounds in­sane, but he has bad legs and he doesn’t have any­body who can get to him,” Black said.

Nate has al­ready been blamed for more than 20 deaths across Cen­tral Amer­ica.

MARK WALLHEISER/GETTY IMAGES

Wind bat­ters a child’s um­brella Satur­day as a fam­ily takes storm pho­tos in Gulf­port, Miss.

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