Hurricane Nate weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday after coming ashore in Mississippi as the fourth hurricane to hit the United States this year, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages.
As the storm moved northeast into Alabama, Nate’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 35 miles per hour (55 km per hour), prompting the National Hurricane Center to end its tropical storm warnings for the region. The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation by the center. Only a few hours earlier, its winds had been blowing at 70 mph but appeared to lack the devastating punch of its recent predecessors.
“We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told reporters, saying there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage.
The fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the U.S. South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.
Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and southern United States.
The tropical depression’s center will move up through Alabama into Tennessee and Kentucky through Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. Heavy rainfall and storm surge flooding remained a danger across the region, and the center said Florida’s Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia might feel tropical storm-force wind gusts.
Nate made its first U.S. landfall on Saturday evening near the mouth of the Mississippi River and then made a second one early on Sunday near Biloxi, Mississippi.
Flood waters swept over streets in communities across Alabama and Mississippi, including over Highway 90 and to oceanside casinos in Biloxi, according to reports on social media.
Jeff Pickich, a 46-year-old wine salesman from D’Iberville, Mississippi, was counting his blessings. Heavy winds left only minor damage, blowing down part of a fence on his rental property in Biloxi.
“I’m just glad,” he said, digging fresh holes for fence posts. “I was afraid of the water. The water is Mother Nature. You can’t stop it.”
Water flowed through Ursula Staten’s yard in Biloxi, pushing over part of her fence and scattering debris, but did not breach her house.
“I have a mess,” the retired massage therapist said. “If we had got Irma, I would have lost everything.”
On Saturday, states of emergency were declared in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in more than two dozen Florida counties. Florida Governor Rick Scott warned of tornadoes springing up in the Pandhandle region.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey urged residents in areas facing heavy winds and storm surges to take precautions. U.S. President Donald Trump declared federal emergencies in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, which provides additional funding for disaster relief.
About 47,000 customers were without power in Mississippi, while more than 1,000 people had arrived at shelters, the state Emergency Management Agency said.
Utility Alabama Power said some 82,000 customers were without electricity.
Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm), with a maximum of 10 inches, were expected east of the Mississippi River in Alabama and Tennessee, the NHC said.
NEW ORLEANS THREAT DOWNGRADED
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a curfew on Saturday evening that was originally scheduled to last until Sunday morning. He said in a statement on social media however, that there was still a serious threat of storm surge outside levee areas.
Bernice Barthelemy, a 70-year-old Louisiana resident, died from cardiac arrest overnight after telling Reuters on Saturday that she did not mind having to evacuate, Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier said on Sunday. He attributed her death to the stress of the move.
The ports of New Orleans in Louisiana and Mobile in Alabama remained closed, and refineries and port authorities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were reviewing when they could reopen.
The storm curtailed 92 percent of daily oil production and 77 percent of daily natural gas output in the Gulf of Mexico, more than three times the amount affected by Harvey.
Workers were evacuated from 301 platforms and 13 rigs as of Saturday, said the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The storm doused Central America with heavy rains on Thursday, killing at least 16 people in Nicaragua, 10 in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two in El Salvador.