Hurricane Nate weakens to a tropical storm after making US landfall twice
(CNN) — Nate weakened to a tropical storm Sunday morning as it moved inland over Mississippi and Alabama, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that storm surge flooding continued in coastal areas.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds had dropped to 45 mph, the center said. It was about 50 miles east-southeast or Meridian, Mississippi, and 95 miles west-southwest of Montgomery, Alabama.
A storm surge warning remained in effect for areas between the Mississippi-Alabama border and Walton County, Florida, in the state’s panhandle, the center said. And a tropical storm warning was still in effect for areas east of the Alabama-Florida border to Indian Pass, Florida.
Nate made its second US landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi, shortly after midnight local time Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane.
It was the first hurricane to make landfall in Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Just hours earlier, Nate had made its first US landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana, with winds of 85 mph the hurricane center reported Saturday night.
Nate triggered hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge warnings accross a swath of Gulf states, as residents braced for the third hurricane to hit the US mainland in six weeks.
Officials warned coastal communities of the storm surge, which is the height of water above dry ground. In Mississippi, the storm surge could reach up to 8 feet in some areas between Mississippi and the Florida panhandle, according to the hurricane center.
Winds as fast as 89 mph were reported east of Venice, Louisiana, and 70 mph at Keesler Airforce Base in Mississippi.
Alabama Power reported Sunday morning that about 59,000 customers were without power, 56,000 of which were in Mobile.
In Mississippi, 50,000 customers were without power, according to a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. More than 10,000 customers were affected by outages in the Florida panhandle, according to Gulf Power.
“Nate’s center will continue to move inland over Mississippi and across the Deep South, Tennessee Valley, and central Appalachian Mountains through Monday,” according to the hurricane center’s early Sunday advisory.
“A turn toward the northeast with an increase in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days,” the advisory said. The storm would “continue to quickly weaken as it moves farther inland,” it added.
Nate has already carved a path of devastation in Central America. At least 28 people were killed Thursday in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Hundreds were rescued from floodwaters and mudslides. Many lost power and running water.
Emergencies declared in Mississippi, Louisiana.
President Donald Trump declared an emergency in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant urged county residents to head north away from the Gulf, but there was no mandatory evacuation. He warned winds could reach 80 mph and storm surge could be as high as 7 to 10 feet.
In Biloxi, Mayor Andrew Gilich was especially concerned about storm surge the storm could bring.
“The storm surge is a big thing that really traps everyone,” he told CNN.
A dozen casinos in Mississippi took the rare step of closing early as the storm moved in.
There have been no reports so far of Nate causing injuries or major damage to homes in the city, according to Biloxi’s public affairs manager, Vincent Creel.
“We were well aware that this could’ve been a much more serious storm. There was talk of it being a Category 2 with an 11-feet tidal surge when it came ashore. It did not — happily — it did not live up to that billing,” he said.
Biloxi will now assess the damage.
“We’re starting to see the water recede and we still have some wind gusts on the back end of the storm and we’re going to have a lot of cleanup to do on our front beach. … It’s to be seen how much damage was done to the sand beach here in Biloxi and Harrison County,” he said. “It looks like the beach took a pounding from the surge.”
Alabama and Florida
In Alabama, Dauphin Island had “significant salt water flooding,” Mayor Jeff Collier told CNN early Sunday. He said homes and cars were flooded, the causeway leading to the island closed and the west of the island inaccessible due to water up to 6 feet deep. The water had started to recede, Collier said.
The Port of Mobile closed Saturday, meaning the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship would not be “making its scheduled call” there Sunday, the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal said.
The Bankhead Tunnel, a major downtown thoroughfare that passes under the Mobile River, was closed because of the hurricane, emergency officials tweeted.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who had declared a state of emergency in 29 counties, said Saturday that evacuation orders were in effect for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, with shelters open for those seeking higher ground.
Louisiana official: ‘I think we dodged a bullet’
Nate moved east of New Orleans, sparing the city the worst of the storm.
New Orleans had spent most of Saturday under a hurricane warning that was lifted around 7 p.m. It was downgraded to a tropical storm warning and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a citywide curfew.
“I think we dodged a bullet,” Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Saturday night. “I think we got the dry side of the storm.”
Nungesser said he had been at Plaquemines Parish, which is at the southeast tip of the state.
“We saw no flooding or levees overtopping,” he said.
Correction: Mississippi’s emergency management agency has revised its statement regarding the number of customers in the state who are without power. This story has been updated to reflect that change.