Tropical Storm Nate Takes Aim at US; Advisories Issued for Gulf Coast

As of 5 a.m. Friday, Nate had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph

The National Hurricane Center has issued storm surge, hurricane and tropical storm advisories for parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Nate approaches.

A storm surge watch has been issued from Morgan City, La., eastward to the Alabama-Florida border, including the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

A hurricane watch is in effect from Morgan City eastward to the Mississippi-Alabama border, including metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. Punta Herrero, Mexico, to Rio Lagartos was also included.

A tropical storm watch has been issued from the Mississippi-Alabama border eastward to Florida's Okaloosa-Walton County Line. A tropical storm watch was also declared west of Morgan City to Intracoastal City.

Tropical Storm Nate was blamed Thursday for at least 22 deaths in Central America as it dumped rain across the region on a path that would carry it toward a potential landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane over the weekend.

Louisiana officials ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands, and evacuations began at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf.

The NHC said the storm could cause dangerous flooding by dumping as much as 15 inches of rain in western Nicaragua and southern Honduras.

As of 5 a.m. Friday, Nate had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. The storm was about 75 miles east-southeast of Isla Guanaja, Honduras, and was moving northwest at a speed of 12 mph.

It is likely to continue over the Gulf of Honduras Friday and across the Caribbean Sea.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday urged residents in Florida's Panhandle to keep an eye on the storm, and declared a state of emergency for 29 counties in north Florida and the Panhandle.

Scott was in Pensacola on Thursday morning, meeting with city and emergency management officials. He said in a news release that the order helps ensure that federal, state and local governments can work together easily and make sure storm-related resources are provided without delay to local communities.

The western part of the Florida Panhandle remained in Nate's forecast track, along with Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

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.

Nicaragua's vice president and spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo, said that at least 15 people had died in that country due to the storm. She didn't give details on all the deaths, but said two women and a man who worked for the Health Ministry were swept away by a flooded canal in the central municipality of Juigalpa.

The government closed schools nationwide.

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Organization blamed seven deaths in that country on the storm and said 15 people were missing. Flooding drove 5,000 residents into emergency shelters.

In Louisiana, officials ordered the evacuation of part of coastal St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans ahead of the storm. Earlier Thursday, a voluntary evacuation was called in the barrier island town of Grand Isle south of New Orleans.

New Orleans officials outlined steps to bolster the city's pump and drainage system. Weaknesses in that system were revealed during summer flash floods.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement's New Orleans office said in a news release that as of midday Thursday, six production platforms, out of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf, had been evacuated. No drilling rigs were evacuated, but one moveable rig was taken out of the storm's path.

The agency estimated less than 15 percent of the current oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in, which equates to 254,607 barrels of oil per day.

The forecast track showed the storm could brush across the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula late Friday night and then hit the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane by Sunday morning. Forecasters said hurricane conditions were possible in Mexico Friday night.

In the Pacific, former Tropical Storm Ramon dissipated off the southwestern coast of Mexico.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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