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Weather

Hurricane Nate weakens to tropical storm after slamming US Gulf Coast

Hurricane Nate has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves inland after hitting the US Gulf Coast. Nate left at least 30 people dead and displaced thousands more as it swept through Central America.

Hurricane Nate has been downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday and has weakened as it moves inland after hitting the US Gulf Coast as  a Category One storm, the US National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

Nate made a second landfall on the Gulf Coast early Sunday, hitting the state of Mississippi's narrow strip of coastline with sustained winds of up to 140 kilometers (85 miles) per hour. It initially came ashore in southeast Louisiana before briefly heading back to sea.

US authorities declared a state of emergency in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida ahead of the storm after it left at least 30 people dead and displaced thousands more in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. At least 400,000 people have been left without running water in Costa Rica.

Read more: Hurricanes release energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs

"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."

Electrical workers clearing away a tree that has fallen across power lines in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Working to restore electricity in Biloxi, Mississippi

Storm surges caused sea levels to rise dramatically in the southern tip of the state, pushing water onto roads and knocking out power. At one point, the eye of the storm passed over Keesler Air Force Base, where the National Hurricane Center's hurricane hunter planes are kept, the center said.

The Miami-based agency warned of dangerous storm surge and floods in places that normally remain dry, adding that the storm was expected to weaken significantly after landfall.

 

US President Donald Trump said federal officials were prepared for the storm, and urged residents of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to "listen to your local authorities & be safe!"

'Stay vigilant'

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned the city's residents on Saturday that the storm could cause severe flooding in some areas. But Nate passed to the east of the city, largely sparing it from the most ferocious winds and storm surge. Its relatively quick speed lowered the chances of prolonged rain taxing its weakened drainage pump system.

Landrieu repealed a mandatory curfew when the NHC dropped a hurricane warning for the iconic city.

 

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott warned residents of the Panhandle, 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of Mississippi, to prepare for Nate's impact.

"Hurricane Nate is expected to bring life-threatening storm surges, strong winds and tornados that could reach across the Panhandle," Scott said. About 100,000 residents of the area have been affected by evacuations.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction, most notably in New Orleans. More than 1,500 deaths and over $1 billion (€850 million) worth of damage were attributed to the record-breaking storm. 

The US is still dealing with the fallout of Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas, Hurricane Irma, which swept across Florida, and Hurricane Maria, which devastated the US territory of Puerto Rico. However, emergency resources activated for those storms made it easier for the US Gulf Coast prepare for Nate, officials said.

aw, ls/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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