Nate strengthened into a hurricane status on Saturday as it barreled toward popular Mexican beach resorts and headed for the US Gulf Coast after showering Central America with heavy rains that left at least 28 people dead.
President Donald Trump had approved the release of federal aid to help mitigate the impact of the storm, as New Orleans and other cities on the US Gulf coast were under a hurricane warning.
“Our greatest threat… is not necessarily rain, but strong winds and storm surge,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
With the storm’s top winds swirling at 129 kilometers (80 miles) per hour some 240 miles northwest of the western tip of Cuba, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that in the United States, “the combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” AFP reported.
The water was expected to peak at up to 2.5 meters (eight feet) above ground in some areas.
After moving across the Gulf of Mexico, the storm was set to make landfall along the central US Gulf Coast late Saturday, NHC stated.
School in seven Mexican coastal towns were canceled upon the request of authorities who also declared an orange alert for the northern half of Quintana Roo state.
US forecasters expected swells to affect northwestern Caribbean land over the weekend and said they are likely to cause life-threatening surf.
“Anyone in low-lying areas… we are urging them to prepare now,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said.
Some offshore oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated ahead of the storm’s advance. Authorities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have declared a maximum or red alert.
“We were drowning. Thank God (emergency workers) helped us. The river swelled so much it swept away our house, our pigs, our chickens — it swept away everything,” said Bonavide Velazquez, 60, who was evacuated from her home in southern Nicaragua.
Nicaragua bore 13 of the deaths, according to Vice President Rosario Murillo.
Three other people were killed in Honduras, and two in El Salvador, where more than 30 people are still listed as missing.
Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the southern United States suffer an Atlantic hurricane season every year that runs from June to November, according to AFP.