Nate reaches Mississippi River
Hurricane forecast to make second landfall near Biloxi
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.
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.