Gathering strength as it arrived in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday night, Tropical Storm Nate has now become Hurricane Nate, the National Hurricane Center reported.
The hurricane was approaching the center of the Gulf early Saturday after barreling past Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the western tip of Cuba, forcasters said.
Nate was expected to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast by Saturday evening, they said, with New Orleans a likely target.
Earlier Friday, the storm hit Central America, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Here’s what you need to know.
Where is Nate now?
Nate was approaching the center of the Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles northwest of the western tip of Cuba, and about 420 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 1 a.m. ET Saturday advisory.
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and was moving north-northwest at 22 mph.
A hurricane warning was in effect from metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, La., as well as Grand Isle, La., to the Alabama-Florida border. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Lake Maurepas and Morgan City to Grand Isle, La., as well as Okaloosa/Walton County, Fla., to the Alabama-Florida border.
Forecasters predicted that Nate would strengthen into a hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Central Gulf Coast states should expect to receive three to six inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
What else do you need to know?
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards already declared a state of emergency and mobilized 1,300 National Guard troops, with 15 headed to New Orleans to monitor the fragile pumping system there.
With forecasts projecting landfall in southeast Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane, Edwards urged residents to ready for rain, storm surge and severe winds — and to be where they intend to hunker down by “dark on Saturday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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