Nate marches across US East Coast, dumping heavy rains
By JEFF AMY, Associated Press
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Nate slogged its way across the U.S. East Coast on Monday, dumping heavy rains and bringing gusty winds to inland states as a tropical depression, a day after Hurricane Nate brought a burst of flooding and power outages to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Nate spared the region the kind of catastrophic damage left by a series of hurricanes that hit the southern U.S. and Caribbean in recent weeks.
Nate — the first hurricane to make landfall in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005 — quickly lost strength Sunday, with its winds diminishing to a tropical depression as it pushed northward into Alabama and Georgia with heavy rain. It was a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore outside Biloxi early Sunday, its second landfall after initially hitting southeastern Louisiana on Saturday evening.
The storm surge from the Mississippi Sound littered Biloxi’s main beachfront highway with debris and flooded a casino’s lobby and parking structure overnight.
By dawn, however, Nate’s receding floodwaters didn’t reveal any obvious signs of widespread damage in the city where Hurricane Katrina had leveled thousands of beachfront homes and businesses.
No storm-related deaths or injuries were immediately reported. However, a volunteer firefighter clearing debris after storms associated with Nate died when he was hit by a car in western North Carolina.
Mississippi Gov. 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 held down 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.” 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.
Sean Stewart, checking on his father’s sailboat at a Biloxi marina after daybreak, found another boat had sunk, its sail still fluttering in Nate’s diminishing winds. Stewart was relieved to find his father’s craft intact.
“I got lucky on this one,” he said.
Before Nate sped past Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula late 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.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the four hurricanes that have struck the U.S. and its territories this year have “strained” resources, with roughly 85 percent of the agency’s forces deployed.
“We’re still working massive issues in Harvey, Irma, as well as the issues in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and now this one,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Nate initially made landfall Saturday evening in Louisiana, but fears that it would overwhelm the fragile pumping system in New Orleans proved to be unfounded. The storm passed to the east of New Orleans, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a curfew on the city known for its all-night partying.
“Hurricane Nate had the potential to wreak havoc on Louisiana, but thankfully, we were largely spared major damage,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.
Nate was expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to the Deep South, eastern Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians through Monday. The Ohio Valley, central Appalachians and Northeast could also get heavy rain before the storm exits Maine on Tuesday.
Also Monday, the Hurricane Center said a depression in the open Atlantic had strengthened. Tropical Storm Ophelia did not pose a threat to any land, however.
Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Alabama, Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brendan Farrington in Pensacola Beach, Florida; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; and AP photographer Gerald Herbert in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, contributed.