A fast-moving storm called Nate brought flooding and power outages to the US Gulf Coast early Sunday after it sloshed ashore outside Biloxi, Mississippi — the first hurricane to make landfall in that state since Katrina devastated the region 12 years ago.
The storm hit Mississippi as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph (140 kph) but weakened later to a tropical storm as it moved inland, the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.
More than 100,000 residents in Mississippi and Alabama were without power following the arrival of Nate, but no deaths or injuries were reported early Sunday. Authorities were beginning to assess the storm’s impacts, but most areas in Nate’s path seem to have avoided major damage - including New Orleans, reports AP.
City of Biloxi employees were working to clear debris on Highway 90, the main beachfront highway, before dawn. Nate washed up sand and logs and even a large trash bin into the four-lane highway. Despite the debris, there was little to no damage to structures that were visible. A handful of businesses were reopening before dawn, and the storm surge that washed across the highway had receded by 6 a.m.
Storm surge flooded the parking structure of the Golden Nugget casino in Biloxi, but a city official said there were no immediate reports of flooding on the floors of any casinos.
“We are thankful because this looked like it was going to be a freight train barreling through the city,” said Vincent Creel, a city spokesman.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said there were no immediate reports of storm-related deaths or injuries in the state. Roughly 1,100 people spent the night in shelters.
“Thankfully, right now we have no major damage reports,” he said.
Hancock County Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Adam said Nate’s storm surge flooded roads in low-lying areas, but he hadn’t heard any reports of flooded homes.
“We turned out fairly good,” he said as he prepared to survey neighbourhoods for possible damage. “Until we get out and actually get into some of the areas, we really won’t know.”
In Louisiana, fears that Nate would overwhelm the fragile pumping system of the city of New Orleans proved unfounded. The storm passed to the east of New Orleans, sparing the city its most ferocious winds and storm surge. Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a curfew on the city known for all-night partying on Saturday night.
Nate has been steadily weakening since making first landfall in a sparsely populated area of Plaquemines Parish. As of 8 a.m. EDT, Nate was centred about 95 miles (155 kilometres) west-southwest of Montgomery, Alabama, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph). Although the National Hurricane centre in Miami said Nate was “rapidly weakening,” the misery associated with heavy rain was to persist over a wide area.