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Mississippi Coast kicks into cleanup mode after Nate’s landfall in Gulfport

Mississippi Coast residents are waking up to see the damages from Hurricane Nate, which made landfall at 12:30 a.m. Sunday in east Gulfport, five miles from Biloxi city limits.

Some 25,000 or more homes are without power from the high winds of Nate, which came ashore packing winds of 85 mph. Power crews are already on the ground working to restore service.

Emergency officials have begun damage assessments, which appear to be the worst in Jackson County, which spreads to the Alabama state line.

Rain bands began to pummel coastal areas around mid-afternoon Saturday, and winds up to 55 mph accompanied hard rain in increasing severity from 8 p.m. until Nate made landfall.

Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi recorded a wind gust of 71 mph.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Officials have warned that debris and downed power lines are on roadways. Shelters in the three counties have opened and are expected to close by noon.

Curfews, set to remain in effect until 9 am., have been lifted in the three coastal counties.

Officials are warning residents to stay off the road if possible so power and road crews can do their jobs.

Road crews from the Mississippi Department of Transportation have begun removing sand from three highway areas in Harrison County. That includes U.S. 90, the beachfront highway also known as Beach Boulevard, in West Biloxi and the Casino Row area. That crew is clearing sand east to the Biloxi Bay Bridge, which leads to Ocean Springs.

Another crew is working at U.S. 90 off Cowan Lorraine Road, which leads to Mississippi 605, while another is clearing sand on the west side of the county, said Rupert Lacy, Harrison County emergency manager.

The Mississippi Coast can expect a 50-percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday. It will be mostly cloudy with a steady temperature around 81 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. It will be breezy, with a southwesterly winds between 10 to 20 mph.

Nate was the first hurricane to make landfall on the Mississippi Coast since Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made a direct hit in Waveland and Bay St. Louis, decimated most of Hancock County south of Interstate 10.

Waters along many beach areas in Biloxi and Gulfport slammed over seawalls on U.S. 90 overnight and flooded parts of the major east-west corridor. A commercial dumpster came to rest on the highway in Biloxi.

Storm surge overnight flooded the first floor of Hard Rock Casino Hotel and the first floor parking garages on the Golden Nugget and The Palace.

Hours before landfall, state marine patrol officers rescued three people stranded on a sailboat near the Silver Slipper casino in Bay St. Louis. And a yacht caught fire on Biloxi’s Back Bay while trying to evacuate.

During a barrage of thunderstorms before landfall, Moss Point first responders rescued a motorist who drove around a barricade and found himself in the Pascagoula River.

And Gulfport firefighters responded to a home fully involved in flames. The family who lived there was not harmed.

First responders in the coastal cities quit making calls once the wind reached 60 mph. National Guardsmen also were called in from the highway at the seawall across Harrison County beaches.

"We were able to resume patrols around 2 a.m.,” Pass Christian Police Chief Tim Hendricks said.

“We had a few roads that were impassable. We didn't notice any major power lines down and we a few tree limbs here and there.”

Meteorologists had first believed the fast-moving storm would make landfall in Pass Christian, Long Beach or just further west in Gulfport.

“We are just now starting our major assessment,” Hendricks said. “We didn't have any calls for emergency rescues during the storm. We have gotten reports of minor power outages. Some waterfront residences in Timber Ridge have minor damage. There is debris on Highway 90 but it is passable. I see no major structural damage in the city. Some boats overtuned in Back Bay. Damage has been noted in the harbor, mostly from loose boats improperly secured.”

Water inundated the first floor of some of the Coast’s 12 casinos, which were closed but have some guests in their resorts. There’s no word yet on when the casinos will re-open.

Waters along many beach areas in Biloxi and Gulfport slammed over seawalls on U.S. 90, the area's beachfront highway, and flooded parts of the highway. A commercial dumpster came to rest on the highway in Biloxi.

Storm surge flooded the first floor of Hard Rock Casino Hotel and the first floor parking garages on the Golden Nugget and The Palace.

The storm surge before landfall rose to 6 feet and possibly higher.

All Jackson County needed was 2 more feet before significant problems would occur, Emergency Services Director Earl Etheridge said. Jackson County’s storm surge was about 6 feet before landfall.

SunHerald social media editor Justin Mitchell and staff writer Jeff Clark contributed to this report.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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