Nate reaches Mis­sis­sippi River

Hur­ri­cane fore­cast to make sec­ond land­fall near Biloxi

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By Janet McCon­naughey, Melinda Des­latte and Jeff Amy

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, Mis­sis­sippi, and threat­ened to in­un­date homes and busi­nesses.

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 low-ly­ing 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.”

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 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.

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 im­pacts could be at the top of fun­nel-shaped Mo­bile Bay.

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 tor­na­dos that could reach across the Pan­han­dle,” Scott said.

The evac­u­a­tions af­fect roughly 100,000 res­i­dents in the western Pan­han­dle.

Jeff Amy The As­so­ci­ated Press

Peo­ple fill sand­bags Satur­day to pre­pare for Hur­ri­cane Nate in Moss Point, Miss. Storm surge threat­ens many low-ly­ing neigh­bor­hoods in the city, which was heav­ily flooded dur­ing 2005’s Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina.

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