Sunday 21 October 2018

US Gulf Coast spared the worst as Hurricane Nate rapidly weakens

A gazebo is blown over the Mississippi Gulf Coast welcome sign near the intersection of Hewes Avenue and US 90 in Gulfport (Justin Sellers/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
A gazebo is blown over the Mississippi Gulf Coast welcome sign near the intersection of Hewes Avenue and US 90 in Gulfport (Justin Sellers/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)
Pumpkins are strewn about Highway 90 along the Gulf of Mexico in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in the aftermath of Hurricane Nate, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Hurricane Nate brought a burst of flooding and power cuts to the US Gulf Coast - but spared the region the kind of catastrophic damage left by a series of hurricanes in recent weeks.

Nate - the first hurricane to make landfall in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005 - quickly lost strength, with its winds diminishing to a tropical depression as it pushed northward into Alabama and towards Georgia with heavy rain.

I t was a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore outside Biloxi in Mississippi early on Sunday, its second landfall after initially hitting southeastern Louisiana on Saturday evening.

No storm-related deaths or injuries were immediately reported.

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant praised state and local officials and coastal residents for working together to avoid loss of life.

Lee Smithson, director of the state emergency management agency, said damage from Nate was minimised in part because of work done and lessons learned from Katrina.

"If that same storm would have hit us 15 years ago, the damage would have been extensive and we would have had loss of life." Mr Smithson said of Nate.

"But we have rebuilt the coast in the aftermath of Katrina higher and stronger."

Nate knocked out power to more than 100,000 residents in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, but crews worked on repairs and it appeared many of the outages had been restored within 24 hours.

As of Sunday evening, Alabama Power said it had electricity back to more than 64,000 customers and some 36,000 remained without power, while in Mississippi power had been restored to more than 21,000 customers.

In Louisiana, there were scattered outages during the storm, while Florida governor Rick Scott said 6,800 customers had lost power in his state.

Before Nate sped past Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula late on Friday and entered the Gulf of Mexico, it drenched Central America with rains that left at least 22 people dead.

But Nate didn't approach the intensity of Harvey, Irma and Maria - powerful storms that left behind massive destruction during 2017's exceptionally busy hurricane season.

"We are thankful because this looked like it was going to be a freight train barrelling through the city," said Vincent Creel, a spokesman for the city of Biloxi.

Crews had to remove over 1,000 pumpkins blown onto Highway 90 in Pass Christian, west of Gulfport in Mississippi in the winds.

Willie Cook, 75, spent his morning chopping down a pecan tree that fell in his backyard. He said Nate was nothing like Katrina, which pushed 8 feet (2.4 metres) of water into his east Biloxi house.

"The wind was blowing, but it wasn't too rough," Mr Cook said of Nate.


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