Last Updated Oct 7, 2017 11:22 AM EDT
NEW ORLEANS — Gulf Coast residents scrambled to finalize storm preparations asraced swiftly over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, gaining added strength as forecasters said it would smash into the U.S. coast during the night.
Louisiana’s governor urged his state’s residents to take Nate seriously, saying the storm “has the potential to do a lot of damage.”
“No one should take this storm lightly. It has already claimed the lives of at least 20 people,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. “We do want people to be very, very cautious and to not take this storm for granted.”
A hurricane warning is in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border and also included metropolitan New Orleans nearby Lake Pontchartrain. A tropical storm warning extended west of Grand Isle to Morgan City, Louisiana, and around Lake Maurepas and east of the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle.
States of emergency were declared in all three states as Nate — which has already killed at least 21 people in Central America — became the latest in a succession of destructive storms this hurricane season.
Follow along with the latest updates below. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted.
11:06 a.m.: Nate expected to make landfall as Category 2 storm, NHC says
Strengthening Hurricane Nate is now expected to be a Category 2 hurricane at landfall on the central Gulf Coast in coming hours.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Nate’s top sustained winds have recently risen to 90 mph and the core is now about 180 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Nate was accelerating to 26 mph and headed north-northwest on a course expected to take it onto the central Gulf Coast on Saturday night. Forecasters say the hurricane-force winds extend out up to 35 miles, mainly to the east of the eye.
In addition to hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings already in place along a wide stretch of Gulf Coast, a new tropical storm warning has been issued in the Florida Panhandle from east of the Okaloosa-Walton County line to Indian Pass, Florida.