Nate closes in on Mis­sis­sippi for 2nd land­fall

New Or­leans spared the worst of its brunt, but Biloxi on high alert

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION | WORLD -

NEW OR­LEANS — Hur­ri­cane Nate came ashore on a sparsely pop­u­lated area at the mouth of the Mis­sis­sippi River on Satur­day and closed in on Mis­sis­sippi, pelt­ing the cen­tral Gulf Coast re­gion with strong winds and heavy rains.

Nate was fore­cast to make its sec­ond land­fall near Biloxi, Miss., and threat­ened to in­un­date homes and busi­nesses.

The cen­ter of the storm passed to the east of New Or­leans, spar­ing the city its most fe­ro­cious winds and storm surge. And its quick speed less­ened the like­li­hood of pro­longed rain that would tax the city’s weak­ened drainage pump sys­tem. Ho­tels, casi­nos evac­u­ated

The city fa­mous for all-night par­ty­ing was placed un­der a cur­few, ef­fec­tive at 7 p.m., but the mayor lifted it when it ap­peared the storm would cause lit­tle prob­lems for the city.

Along the Mis­sis­sippi coast, cities such as Gulf­port and Biloxi were on high alert. Some beach­front ho­tels and casi­nos were evac­u­ated, and rain began fall­ing on the re­gion Satur­day. 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 had said it was pos­si­ble that it could strengthen to a Cat­e­gory 2, but that seemed less likely as the night wore on.

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

“If it floods again, this will be it,” said Larry Bertron as 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.” Boat res­cues

Of­fi­cials res­cued five peo­ple from two sail­boats in choppy wa­ters be­fore the storm. One 41-foot sail­boat lost its engine in Lake Pontchar­train and two sailors were saved. An­other boat hit rocks in the Mis­sis­sippi Sound and three peo­ple had to be plucked from the wa­ter.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Ed­wards 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,” he 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 power-gen­er­at­ing 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 7 to 11 feet near the Alabama-Mis­sis­sippi state line. Some of the big­gest ef­fects could be at the top of fun­nelshaped Mo­bile Bay.

At 10 p.m. CDT Satur­day, Nate was about 35 miles south­west of the mouth of the Mis­sis­sippi River. The storm was ex­pected to quickly weaken as it cuts a path through the South­east on its way to the Mid-At­lantic and North­east re­gions, which could see im­pacts from Nate early next week.

Chris Kle­po­nis / Bloomberg

Mark Wal­heiser / Getty Im­ages

From left, Robert But­ler, Im­manuel Hub­bard and Charles Jack­son board up Mother Cluck­ers on Satur­day in Pass Christian, Miss., as Hur­ri­cane Nate ap­proaches.

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