Nate makes land­fall along Gulf Coast

NEW OR­LEANS FACES WIND, HEAVY RAINS Ar­eas of Miss., Ala., ready hur­ri­cane shel­ters

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY CAR­MEN SIS­SON, ASH­LEY CU­SICK AND PA­TRI­CIA SUL­LI­VAN pa­tri­cia.sul­li­van@wash­post.com

new or­leans — Hur­ri­cane Nate, af­ter rush­ing north at a record clip and rak­ing the Gulf Coast with light winds and heavy rains Satur­day, made land­fall just af­ter dark­ness fell at the mouth of the Mis­sis­sippi River, in the lat­est of a series of deadly storms this sea­son.

Of­fi­cials re­peat­edly warned res­i­dents to take the storm se­ri­ously, in a re­peat of a drill that caused thou­sands of evac­u­a­tions from Louisiana in Au­gust. By late Satur­day, Nate had max­i­mum wind speeds of 85 mph and threats of storm surge up to 11 feet. Manda­tory evac­u­a­tions were put in place for parts of New Or­leans, and com­mu­ni­ties across Mis­sis­sippi and Alabama opened shel­ters for res­i­dents.

Nate was ex­pected to make a sec­ond land­fall near Biloxi, Miss., about mid­night, hav­ing veered east from New Or­leans, which suf­fered winds, but lit­tle rain. The Mis­sis­sippi coast was tak­ing the brunt of the storm. Nate has al­ready been blamed for 25 deaths in Cen­tral Amer­ica as it swept through the Gulf of Mex­ico last week. It is the ninth hur­ri­cane to form in the At­lantic this sea­son, which is the high­est to­tal since the in­fa­mous 2012 sea­son that fea­tured Hur­ri­cane Sandy.

Here, long­time res­i­dents, es­pe­cially those who had sur­vived Ka­t­rina in 2005, seemed to be lis­ten­ing, stock­ing up on wa­ter, food and gaso­line. But on Satur­day af­ter­noon and into the even­ing, the streets in the French Quar­ter were full of tourists.

Brenda Rush­ton from Toronto laughed joy­fully as she took shel­ter un­der a Bour­bon Street bal­cony, pre­tend­ing to give a news up­date on Nate to her two sis­ters.

“It’s on my bucket list to be in a hur­ri­cane,” the 55-year-old ex­claimed. The women spent the morn­ing drink­ing hur­ri­cane cock­tails at Pat O’Brien’s down the street. They planned to ride out the rest of Nate from their ho­tel bar.

“You party till you can’t party any more in New Or­leans,” said na­tive New Or­lea­nian Kay Hayes. Ear­lier Satur­day morn­ing, she was di­rect­ing sev­eral thou­sands of peo­ple on a breast can­cer cure walk. “This is who we are. We’ll take care of each other.”

That sen­ti­ment is what New Or­leans Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu tried to en­cour­age as he de­clared a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. cur­few for the city, warn­ing res­i­dents and the 40,000 visi­tors in the city Satur­day to stay inside. That cur­few was can­celed only 90 min­utes into it, af­ter the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice changed the city’s fore­cast to a trop­i­cal storm, rather than hur­ri­cane, warn­ing.

“This storm should not bring us any­thing we are not pre­pared to han­dle, pre­sum­ing we all co­op­er­ate,” he said Satur­day morn­ing from a new hur­ri­cane-hard­ened fire sta­tion in the ru­ral eastern por­tion of the city. Lan­drieu urged res­i­dents to avoid the shores of Lake Pontchar­train, which some­times draws dare­devil surfers af­ter a storm. Hours later, the wa­ters over­topped the shore, wash­ing across an empty lake shore drive. Lan­drieu ear­lier de­clared an evac­u­a­tion from three neigh­bor­hoods that lie out­side the lev­ees that pro­tect the rest of the city.

“This is one of the most vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas of the city,” he said un­der glow­er­ing skies. “You are at high risk if you are on this side of the flood wall . . . and you’ve got an acute risk tonight.”

But Lan­drieu’s rhetoric had lim­ited im­pact; Nancy Bell, pres­i­dent of the Vene­tian Isles home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, said about half of the 275 homes there re­mained oc­cu­pied.

“In Ka­t­rina, we had an 18-foot storm surge here, and wa­ter didn’t get into my main liv­ing area,” said the 25-year res­i­dent who el­e­vated her house af­ter Ka­t­rina, put up hur­ri­cane shut­ters and has a gen­er­a­tor with ex­tra fuel. “From what they’re say­ing, this is likely to be a hit-and-run storm. It would take you longer to get away.”

Lan­drieu said although 11 of the 120 city’s drainage pumps were not op­er­at­ing, it is enough to keep most of the city dry. The city did not ex­pect ma­jor rain­fall to­tals, in part be­cause Nate was track­ing east of the city.

Of­fi­cials have been in con­tact with ev­ery nurs­ing home in New Or­leans, he said, to en­sure each one has gen­er­a­tors and fuel. The city has also made a ma­jor sweep of known home­less en­camp­ments.

The U.S. Coast Guard sus­pended port op­er­a­tions from New Or­leans to Mo­bile. Gov. John Bel Ed­wards said in a mid­day news con­fer­ence that he spoke with Pres­i­dent Trump, who promised him that fed­eral re­sources were at the ready. Trump had signed a pre-storm emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to em­power FEMA to co­or­di­nate relief ef­forts. The state Na­tional Guard, mean­while, has mo­bi­lized 1,300 troops and po­si­tioned high­wa­ter ve­hi­cles, boats and other ve­hi­cles through­out the area.

De­spite the gov­er­nor’s warn­ing to hun­ker down by 3 p.m. lo­cal time, traf­fic on In­ter­state 10 through the city was busy through­out the af­ter­noon rain as the outer bands of the hur­ri­cane swept into the city.

At the Fly­ing J truck stop in Gulf­port, Miss., cashier Cindy Fitzhugh yelled, “I need some help,” as a line of cus­tomers stock­ing up on sup­plies stretched to­ward the back of the store. Fitzhugh lost ev­ery­thing she owned dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, so the ap­proach­ing storm has her on edge.

So far, she has been too busy work­ing to make prepa­ra­tions at home. For now, her big­gest pri­or­ity is mak­ing sure the store’s cooler stays stocked with ice and ev­ery­one else gets what they need quickly so they can get home safely.

“I get off soon, I think, I hope,” she said, laugh­ing ner­vously.

Out­side, a brisk breeze blew and gray skies pre­vailed as friends Zack Moore and Co­ley Oberg filled their four-wheel­ers with gas, not be­cause of the storm but be­cause it’s Satur­day.

“We’ve got plenty of beer and moon­shine in the fridge, so we’ll be fine,” Moore said, laugh­ing.

The low wind speed re­as­sures coastal res­i­dents like Moore and Oberg, who liken Nate more to a thun­der­storm than a se­ri­ous threat.

Back in New Or­leans, Blondy Moore and Iram Chedikah strug­gled to carry a newly pur­chased gen­er­a­tor into their home in the Gen­tilly neigh­bor­hood in the af­ter­noon.

They also bought 10 life jack­ets, one for each of the family mem­bers who will shel­ter with them.

Chedikah, a pas­tor, said prayer is also high on their list of prepa­ra­tions. “Prayer is num­ber one,” he said.

“This storm should not bring us any­thing we are not pre­pared to han­dle, pre­sum­ing we all co­op­er­ate.” New Or­leans Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu

Greg Porter and Ian Liv­ingston con­trib­uted to this re­port. Sul­li­van and Cu­sick re­ported from New Or­leans; Sis­son re­ported from Gulf­port, Miss.

SEAN GARD­NER/GETTY IM­AGES

Mem­bers of the U.S. Na­tional Guard ar­rive at the Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome on Satur­day as New Or­leans pre­pares for Hur­ri­cane Nate, which is the ninth hur­ri­cane to form in the At­lantic this sea­son, the high­est to­tal since the 2012 hur­ri­cane sea­son.

JONATHAN BACH­MAN/REUTERS

A mu­si­cian walks in the French Quar­ter of New Or­leans on Satur­day as Hur­ri­cane Nate ap­proaches.

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