Sun, Oct 08, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Hurricane gaining strength en route to US Gulf Coast

AP, MEXICO CITY

Brenda Kent jumps on her boat as she and her husband leave Biloxi, Mississippi, on Friday.

Photo: The Sun Herald via AP

Hurricane Nate early yesterday gained force as it continued rapidly moving over the central Gulf of Mexico after drenching Central America in rain that was blamed for at least 21 deaths.

Forecasters said it was likely to reach the US Gulf Coast over the weekend.

Louisiana and Mississippi officials declared a state of emergency, with Louisiana ordering some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of the storm’s expected landfall last night or early today.

Evacuations have begun at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi’s government said it would open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, with buses available for people who cannot drive.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that Nate could raise sea levels by 1.2m to 2.1m from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border.

It already caused deadly flooding in much of Central America.

The center added metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain to its latest hurricane warning.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 129kph and was likely to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, reaching the US Gulf coast near New Orleans late yesterday, the center said.

The storm was about 555km south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving north-northwest at 35kph.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and mobilized 1,300 National Guard troops, with 15 headed to New Orleans to monitor the fragile pumping system there.

With forecasts projecting landfall in southeast Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane, Edwards urged residents to ready for rainfall, storm surge and severe winds — and to be where they intend to hunker down by “dark on Saturday.”

He said Nate is forecast to move quickly, rather than stall and drop tremendous amounts of rain on the state.

State officials hope that means New Orleans will not run into problems with its pumps being able to handle the water.

Authorities canceled classes on Friday afternoon in parts of Mexico’s Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo.

However, Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquin said it appeared the storm would stay well offshore and not hit land, adding: “That, I believe, is good news.”

In Nicaragua, Nate’s arrival followed two weeks of near-constant rain that had left the ground saturated and rivers swollen. Authorities placed the whole country on alert and warned of flooding and landslides.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo said that at least 11 people had died in the country due to the storm.

On Thursday she had said 15 people had died, before later revising to say some of those were still counted as missing.

She did not provide details on all the deaths, but said two women and a man who worked for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health were swept away by a flooded canal in the central municipality of Juigalpa.

The Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Department blamed seven deaths in the country on the storm and said 15 people were missing.

In Honduras, there were three dead and three missing, an official said.

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