The latest forecasts for Tropical Storm Nate don’t look good for the Mississippi Coast, but it’s still too early to tell where the storm will make landfall.
South Mississippians should have a hurricane plan ready as Nate continues to make its way across the Caribbean Sea toward the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center predictions on Thursday shifted the storm even further to the west. Mississippi could be directly impacted, as the Thursday afternoon forecast estimated landfall of a Category 1 hurricane near the tip of Louisiana and Hancock County.
However, forecasts this far in advance can be off by more than 100 miles, and the average at four days is 170 miles off, the Miami Herald reports.
Nate is expected to cross over land twice before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, which could alter its track and affect its intensity. Once it reaches the Gulf, conditions are favorable for strengthening and there will be little wind shear, the forecasters said.
The storm is still expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall, and the main threats will be wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall.
A hurricane watch and storm surge watch will likely be issued Friday for parts of the northern Gulf Coast, the Hurricane Center said.
The National Weather Service in New Orleans said because it is a fast-moving storm, the area will likely see impact from the storm from Saturday evening through Sunday morning.
Lee Smithson, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, told the Associated Press that people should not be complacent about the possibility of a relatively weak hurricane. He says most fatalities during hurricanes happen because of drowning, not because of wind speed. Hurricanes can also cause spin-off tornadoes and power outages.
The New Orleans area and Hancock County continue to be under a coastal flood advisory thanks to strong easterly winds. “Already elevated tides will only increase this weekend and heavy rain is possible especially on the eastern half of the system,” the weather service warns.
Tides up to two feet above normal are expected through Friday, and higher tides and storm surge are possible Saturday and Sunday.
Some outdoor festivals and other events are postponed due to the potential weather but other events will roll.
South Mississippi residents can fill their own sand bags at select locations in Harrison County.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared a state of emergency in the city in anticipation of Tropical Storm Nate, which forecasters said could hit the area this weekend as a hurricane.
In the nearby coastal area of St. Bernard Parish, officials ordered the evacuation Thursday afternoon for areas outside of the parish levee system.
Earlier Thursday, a voluntary evacuation was called in the barrier island town of Grand Isle south of New Orleans.
New Orleans officials outlined steps being taken to bolster the city’s pump and drainage system. Weaknesses in that system were revealed during summer flash floods.
In Baton Rouge, Gov. John Bel Edwards planned to meet with state emergency officials in the afternoon, prior to a news conference.