Hurricane Nate made a second landfall early Sunday in Mississippi, the first hurricane to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, after cutting a deadly path through Central America that left at least 21 people dead.
Nate roared ashore with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph, but weakened later to a tropical storm as it moved inland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
As of 5 a.m. EDT, the NHC said Nate was centered about 80 miles north-northeast of Biloxi and moving north-northeast near 23 mph.
The storm originally made landfall in southeast Louisiana in a sparsely populated area.
Mississippi hit with flooding, power outages
As Nate pushed ashore, the hurricane spawned storm surge in coastal areas, flooding the parking structure of the Golden Nugget casino in Biloxi and pushing water several blocks deep into the city.
“It kind of surprised us,” Mike Kovacevich, who lives two blocks north of U.S. 90, told Biloxi officials on their Facebook page. “We didn’t expect to be this deep. It come in pretty good — a lot of water.”
Around 25,000 customers from multiple utility companies are without power in southern portions of the state, WLOX-TV reported.
The coastal city of Pascagoula also reported that storm surge flooded downtown streets.
On Belle Fontaine Beach, a narrow strip of land between the Mississippi Sound and a coastal marsh that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, one resident told the Associated Press said it wasn’t as bad as he thought.
“This is my first hurricane,” John Adams said hours before the storm made landfall. “So far, it’s kind of a fizzle.”
Governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama declared states of emergency. The three states have been mostly spared during a hurricane season that has spawned devastating storms such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
“This is the worst hurricane that has impacted Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina,” Mississippi Emergency Management Director Lee Smithson said Saturday. “Everyone needs to understand that, that this is a significantly dangerous situation.
Nate sends floodwaters into coastal Alabama
In Alabama, the storm’s rising water flooded homes and cars on the coast and inundated at least one major thoroughfare in downtown Mobile.
Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told the AP he woke up around 3 a.m. Sunday to discover knee-deep water in his yard.
Although some homes and cars on the island had flooded, Collier said he hadn’t heard of any reports of residents needing to be rescued from the floodwaters. Collier added water levels appeared to be falling as dawn approached.
Storm surge also flooded Water Street in downtown Mobile and a ground-level causeway across Mobile Bay. Alabama Department of Transportation traffic cameras show water still standing on both those routes before dawn Sunday.
New Orleans spared worst from Nate
The hurricane passed to the east of New Orleans, which placed the most ferocious winds and storm surge away from the city. Nate’s quick forward speed lessened the likelihood of prolonged rain that would tax the city’s weakened drainage pump system.
The city famous for all-night partying was originally placed under a curfew, effective at 7 p.m., but the mayor lifted it about an hour after it had begun when it appeared the storm would pass by the city.
Streets in the famed French Quarter were not nearly as crowded as they typically are on a Saturday night, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked people to still shelter in place. Some bars were closed in the French Quarter but music blasted from others.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that bad, as far as a hurricane,” Michael Dennis of Atlanta told the AP.
The storm wasn’t enough to stop a Georgia couple from getting married at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Mike and Kendra Groves told NOLA.com the museum’s early closure meant their scheduled 7 p.m. wedding would have to be pushed up, but they planned to head to the hotel bar to ride out the curfew.
“We never considered canceling,” Mike told the news outlet.
In Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, officials evacuated 240 residents who were not protected by its levee system as the storm approached.
“While it appears we’re being spared, our hearts go out to Mississippi,” said Amos Cormier, president of the parish.
Even though the worst of Nate moved east of New Orleans, officials were still busy with water rescues to due choppy waters before the storm.
Officials in Louisiana said that people had to be rescued from two sailboats as Nate approached.The first rescue happened about noon Saturday, when two people had to be helped off a 41-foot sailboat that lost its engine in Lake Pontchartrain. The Coast Guard said both sailors were in stable condition.
A second rescue occurred in the Mississippi Sound, according to Melissa Scallon, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Scallon said a distress call came in around 3 p.m. after a sailboat struck rocks at Bayou Caddy west of Waveland.
Scallon said the state Marine Patrol responded and plucked three people from the water, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, key shipping ports across the U.S. Gulf Coast were closed Saturday, as Nate drew close, Reuters reported.
Daily oil production in the region was slashed 92 percent and daily natural gas production was down 77 percent, the report said.
In addition, workers were evacuated from 301 platforms and 13 rigs as of Saturday, Reuters reported, citing information from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.