Tropical storm Nate poised to hit Gulf coast as hurricane over weekend

Storm blamed for 21 deaths in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, with Louisiana and Mississippi declare states of emergency amid evacuations

Forecasters said tropical storm Nate was likely to reach the US Gulf coast as a hurricane over the weekend, after being is the responsibility of at the least 21 deaths in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica.

The storm had maximum sustained gales of 50mph by Friday morning and was likely to strengthen over the north-western Caribbean before a possible ten-strike on the Cancun region at the tip-off of the Yucatan Peninsula at near hurricane strength.

Officials in Louisiana and Mississippi declared countries of state of emergency and Louisiana ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of Nate’s expected landfall on Saturday night or early on Sunday, potentially close to New Orleans.

Dozens of offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated. The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a news release that workers had been to withdraw from 66 Gulf production platforms as of late Friday morning. That was nearly 9% of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf. The bureau also said five drilling rigs had been evacuated and 11 other rigs had been moved out of the path of the blizzard.

An calculated 71% of the Gulf’s current oil production and 53% of its natural gas production has been “shut-in”, or temporarily halted, due to the cyclone. Offshore facilities will be inspected for injury once Nate pass.

The US National Hurricane Center( NHC) issued a hurricane warning from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border and warned that Nate could create sea level by 4ft to 7ft from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the western edge of Florida. Mississippi said it would open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, with bus available for people who could not drive.

In Louisiana, the governor, John Bel Edwards, proclaimed a state of emergency and mobilized 1,300 national guard troops. New Orleans officials outlined steps to bolster the city’s pump and drainage system, weaknesses in which were uncovered during summer flash floods. Fifteen national guard troops were headed to the city to monitor the pumping system.

With forecasts projecting landfall in south-east Louisiana as a category 1 hurricane, Edwards urged residents to ready for rainfall, storm upsurge and severe gale- and to be where they intend to hunker down by” dark on Saturday “.

Nate is forecast to move quickly, he said, rather than stall and drop-off tremendous sums of rain on the nation. State officers hope that will mean New Orleans will not run into problems with its pumps being able to handle the water. Edwards, however, warned against underestimating the storm.

Officials ordered the evacuation of part of the coastal St Bernard Parish east of New Orleans. On Thursday, a voluntary evacuation was called in the barrier island township of Grand Isle, south of New Orleans.

On Friday morning, the cyclone was situated about 125 miles east-south-east of the Mexican resort island of Cozumel and had accelerated its north-north-west motion to 21 mph.

In Nicaragua, Nate’s arrival followed 2 week 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.

The vice-president, Rosario Murillo, said at least 11 people succumbed due to the blizzard. On Thursday, she had said 15 people died, before saying some of those were still counted as missing. She did not give details on all the deaths, but said two women and a man who worked for the health ministry were swept away by a inundated canal in the central municipality of Juigalpa.

Costa Rica’s judicial investigation department blamed seven deaths on the blizzard and said 15 people were missing. Inundating drove 5,000 into emergency shelters. In Honduras, there were three dead and three missing, according to Oscar Triminio, spokesman for the country’s firefighters.

Damage caused by the storm inspired Costa Rican officials to postpone a World Cup qualifying football match between that country and Honduras, scheduled for Friday night.

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