Gulf Coast residents scrambled to finalize storm preparations as Hurricane Nate raced swiftly over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, gaining added strength as forecasters said it would smash into the US coast during the night. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the core of the Category 1 hurricane was about 245 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 8am EDT Saturday, per the AP. Top sustained winds were clocked at 85 mph. 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 Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama 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. In New Orleans, the city's pumping system remains fragile but is working. Two flash floods this summer led to revelations about personnel and equipment problems at the agency that runs the system that drains the city. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said 109 of its 120 pumps are functioning, which is 92% capacity. "We are ready for whatever Nate brings our way," he said. Nate would be the third hurricane to hit the US mainland in six weeks, notes CNN.