Having already "left a path of devastation through Central America," Hurricane Nate—which was upgraded from a tropical storm late Friday—is now barreling toward the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S., and states have begun urgently bracing for impact. The storm is expected to make landfall between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama late Saturday or early Sunday.
As CNN reports, Nate—the latest storm amid a devastating and unprecedented hurricane season—is already responsible for at least 24 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and hundreds had to be rescued from mudslides and intense flooding.
With the storm rapidly hurtling toward the coastal United States after picking up speed in the "unusually warm waters" of the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have all declared states of emergency and ordered evacuations of low-lying areas.
— Eric Blake (@EricBlake12) October 7, 2017
#Nate is the 9th hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season, and the 9th storm in a row in the basin to reach hurricane strength.
— Alex Lamers (@AlexJLamers) October 7, 2017
While Nate has been classified as a Category 1 hurricane, registering over 80 mph winds, the Washington Post notes that the storm could ultimately grow to a Category 2, with winds reaching over 95 mph.
The Post went on to detail preparations currently underway in New Orleans, where residents have been warned to expect power outages:
By Saturday, the Port of New Orleans will be closed, and most of the 200 floodgates in the city and surrounding parishes will be closed. More than 350 members of the National Guard will be on the ground.
Friday morning, the city began providing 17,000 sandbags to residents at five locations across town. Police set up 146 barricades in flood-prone areas, and boats and high-water vehicles were lined up at fire and police stations.
Melonie Stewart, customer service director at Entergy, New Orleans’s sole energy provider, warned residents to be prepared for up to seven days without power from the grid.
The National Hurricane Center has warned that "life-threatening storm surge flooding is likely along portions of the northern Gulf Coast," adding: "Residents in these areas should heed any evacuation instructions given by local officials."
Meteorologists have been documenting Hurricane Nate's growing strength on social media, warning that the storm is picking up speed at a "terrifying" rate and that its impact could seriously stress levees.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) October 7, 2017
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) October 7, 2017
Hurricane Nate is blasting toward the northern gulf coast. Storm surge a significant concern along and east of track of center. pic.twitter.com/wriH3i6plt
— Taylor Trogdon (@TTrogdon) October 7, 2017