Nate strengthens into a hurricane as it aims for New Orleans

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Tropical Storm Nate has strengthened into a category one hurricane as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico and takes aim for New Orleans, where a city-wide curfew has been announced and some areas have been ordered to evacuate.

As of 4 a.m. CT on Saturday, the center of Nate was located about 345 miles (550 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its maximum sustained winds are at 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour with gusts up to 98 miles (157 kilometers) per hour.

Nate is expected to gain some additional strength as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico, but it is not expected to become a category two storm before it reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast, where hurricane warnings and watches are in effect.

“Along the northern Gulf Coast, hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area Saturday night, with tropical storm conditions expected by late Saturday,” said Lixion Avila, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

In addition to hurricane-force winds, Nate will be accompanied by a combination of dangerous storm surge and tide, causing normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. Nate will also cause heavy rainfall, up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in some areas.

“A hurricane warning is in effect for portions of the northern Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama, and preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in these areas,” said NHC hurricane specialist Robbie Berg. He added that areas to the east of Nate are expected to experience the worst.

The hurricane warning area includes the New Orleans metropolitan area, where Mayor Mitch Landrieu has issued a mandatory evacuation for Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine and Irish Bayou. He also announced a mandatory curfew from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday, when Nate will move into Alabama.

Nate impacted parts of Central America earlier this week, causing heavy rain, landslides and floods. At least 23 people were killed in the region, including 11 in Nicaragua, 8 in Costa Rica, 3 in Honduras, and 1 in El Salvador. Dozens of people remain missing.

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