Hurricane Nate, currently speeding northward across the Gulf of Mexico at an unusually fast 25 mph and having 90 mph maximum wind speeds, is expected to make landfall somewhere between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm on Saturday night.
Hurricane warnings are currently in place from Grande Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border, the Washington Post reported. That stretch includes New Orleans, which has caused the mayor of the city to issue mandatory evacuations for some parts of the area.
Affected areas are likely to receive damaging winds that could gust over 100 mph, severe coastal flooding, and torrential downpours. The storm is not expected to reach the levels of devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, which slammed the Gulf Coast several hundreds miles to the west, or Hurricane Irma, which pounded much of Florida.
Nate began forming earlier this week in the southwestern Caribbean and has already killed an estimated 25 people in Central America. Very warm waters in the Gulf allowed Nate to quickly intensify from a tropical storm to a hurricane, with some forecasters warning that the most dangerous aspect of Nate is how rapidly it could ramp up in strength.
Storm surge – a rise in the water level at the coast as the storm moves inland – is expected to cause the most immediate threat to residents in the affected area, with waters levels between 7 and 11 feet expected in worst-case scenarios. According to the National Hurricane Center, the hardest-hit area will extend from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Mississippi-Alabama border.
Other areas will experience water level rises that are not as severe but still dangerous.
“Unfortunately, locations from Grand Isle, La., to Panama City, Fla., will have high tide around midnight, coinciding with landfall and peak storm surge, maximizing coastal inundation anywhere east of the landfall point,” said Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert.