National Hurricane Center
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- Tropical Storm Nate is strengthening and expected to become a hurricane by the time it hits the Gulf Coast late Saturday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
- The storm has killed at least 22 people in Central America.
- Hurricane warnings are in effect in New Orleans and across parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. A mandatory curfew is in effect for New Orleans on Saturday night.
The storms just keep coming.
Tropical Storm Nate, which formed Thursday morning, was nearing hurricane strength while moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico on Friday night, according to the National Hurricane Center’s update at 10 p.m. CDT.
Nate has already been blamed for at least 22 deaths across Nicaragua and Costa Rica, The Associated Press reported, and it’s causing dangerous flooding and landslides.
The storm has been getting stronger and becoming more well-organized on satellite images.
The NHC’s latest forecast suggests Nate will skim the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Friday night, then make landfall as a hurricane somewhere near New Orleans late Saturday night or Sunday. Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for the US Gulf Coast.
In preparation, officials in Louisiana have ordered residents living along part of the east coast of New Orleans and in other areas near the coast to evacuate. States of emergency have been declared for New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana and for parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a mandatory curfew from 6 p.m. Saturday night through Sunday morning.
The biggest question for those in the US is how strong Nate will get between now and Saturday night.
REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
Bracing for flooding
As of Friday night, Nate’s tropical-storm-force winds had maximum sustained speeds of 70 mph, with gusts going higher than that. Tropical-storm warnings are in effect for parts of Mexico, Cuba, and parts of the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for the Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Alabama’s border with Florida and for metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
Hurricane watches — meaning hurricane conditions may arrive within two days — are in effect for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula; from east of Alabama’s border with Florida to the Okaloosa/Walton County line in Florida; from west of Grand Isle to Morgan City in Louisiana; and Lake Maurepas.
Storm surge warnings — meaning the storm is likely to raise water levels significantly — are in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa/Walton county line in Florida, and for the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
The New Orleans branch of the National Weather Service said the “storm surge warning indicates the danger of life threatening inundation.”
Nate was expected to pour 15 to 20 inches of rain onto much of Nicaragua, with isolated locations getting 30 inches. Authorities closed all schools and placed the entire country on alert, according to the AP. In Costa Rica, 5,000 people fled to emergency shelters.
On much of the Gulf Coast, Nate is expected to dump three to six inches of rain, with some areas getting 10 inches.
Rapid strengthening possible
It’s hard to predict the exact path and intensity that Nate will have by the time it nears the Gulf Coast, especially since the storm is still relatively disorganized. But the water that Nate is moving over now is extremely warm, which means conditions are ripe for rapid strengthening.
Wow #Nate looking much better in satellite just in the past few hours. Hoping for no rapid intensification but don’t like trend… pic.twitter.com/OJkCEsKrCV
Nate is expected to become a hurricane before it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters caution that the strength and category of a storm are not necessarily reflective of the damage it can cause, as heavy rainfall and storm surge can be destructive even without extreme winds.
Don’t downplay the danger from #Nate, as two recent Cat. 1 Gulf #hurricane landfalls illustrated. https://t.co/lhHgA0vnIt pic.twitter.com/QolJ3YLxZp
Nate adds yet another threat to what has already been an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season. It’s the 14th named storm of the season, which doesn’t end until late November.
So far this season, we’ve had eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes — classified as Category 3 or above. If Nate’s wind speeds pick up, it will be the ninth.
The western Caribbean, where Nate formed, is one of the main spots to watch for storms at this point in the season, according to Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University. Since 1851, 25% of Atlantic tropical storms, 33% of hurricanes, and 60% of major hurricanes in October have formed in that region.