Monday 22 October 2018

US hurricane weakens but floods still a major threat

Waves caused by Hurricane Nate pound the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. Credit: AP Photo
Waves caused by Hurricane Nate pound the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. Credit: AP Photo

Rod Nickel Biloxi

Hurricane Nate weakened to a tropical depression after coming ashore in Mississippi as the fourth hurricane to hit the United States this year, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages.

As the storm moved north-east into Alabama, Nate's maximum sustained winds dropped to 55kmh, prompting the National Hurricane Centre to end its tropical storm warnings for the region. The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation by the centre. Only a few hours earlier, its winds had been blowing at 100kmh but appeared to lack the devastating punch of its recent predecessors.

"We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed," said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, adding there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage.

The fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US.

It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.

Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and southern United States.

The tropical depression's centre will today move up through Alabama into Tennessee and Kentucky. Heavy rainfall and storm surge flooding remained a danger across the region, and the centre said Florida's Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia might feel tropical storm-force wind gusts.

Nate made its first US landfall on Saturday near the mouth of the Mississippi River and then made a second one yesterday near Biloxi, Mississippi.

Flood waters swept over streets in communities across Alabama and Mississippi, including over Highway 90 and to oceanside casinos in Biloxi.

Jeff Pickich, a 46-year-old wine salesman from D'Iberville, Mississippi, was counting his blessings. Heavy winds left only minor damage, blowing down part of a fence on his rental property in Biloxi.

"I'm just glad," he said, digging fresh holes for fence posts. "I was afraid of the water. The water is mother nature. You can't stop it."

Water flowed through Ursula Staten's yard in Biloxi, pushing over part of her fence, but did not breach her house.

"I have a mess," the retired massage therapist said. "If we had got Irma, I would have lost everything."

Irish Independent

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