Hurricane Nate lashed coastal Mississippi Sunday morning, causing extensive power outages and flooding before racing north and downgrading to a tropical storm.
Nate made its initial landfall Saturday evening on the bird’s foot peninsula of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River flows between high levees into the Gulf of Mexico. It crossed over open water again before slamming into coastal Mississippi east of Gulfport as a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour just after midnight Sunday local time.
Nate is the fourth hurricane to make landfall this year in the U.S. in what has been an extraordinary season for tropical cyclones.
Early reports from the Gulf Coast suggest that Nate did not deliver a disastrous punch. It stayed east of New Orleans, which is highly vulnerable to heavy precipitation due to its low elevation and an antiquated pumping system that continues to need repairs. New Orleans received only about an inch of rain and did not lose power despite wind gusts that rattled windows across the city.
But Biloxi, Mississippi, and nearby communities took a thrashing from Nate. There have been no reports of deaths or extreme property damage, though there have been extensive power outages. The casinos of Biloxi suffered flooding from the storm surge, according to images posted by storm chasers on social media. Storm surges of as high as 6 feet were common in coastal Mississippi.
Coastal Alabama dodged a blow. Streets in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, were littered with tree debris Sunday morning, and many yards had standing tidewater and marsh grass, but the power was on. Locals packed into the Waffle House that had remained open through the storm Sunday morning and compared their experiences.
Residents along the Mississippi coast also expressed relief about the storm’s minimal damage. In the coastal town of Pass Christian, pumpkins from a church fundraiser had scattered across Highway 90, victims of Nate’s rampage. The gourds came from a pumpkin sale for Trinity Episcopal Church and organizers figured only about half of the existing stock could be retrieved.
“Their pumpkin sale just floated away, ” said Andrew Hirstmyer, a local resident. He pooh-poohed the storm itself, noting “The difference between a (category) 1 and a 5 is just amazing. “This,” he nodded toward the pumpkins “is just comic relief.”
Nate is falling apart as it speeds to the northeast, but it may yet deliver torrential rainfall to the southern Appalachians, creating flash-flood conditions. The remnants of Nate could deliver much-needed rainfall to the parched mid-Atlantic on Monday.
Nate made its initial landfall Saturday evening on the bird’s foot peninsula of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River flows between high levees into the Gulf of Mexico. That feeble spit of land did nothing at all to slow down the storm.
It crossed over open water again before slamming into coastal Mississippi east of Gulfport just after midnight Sunday local time.
That stretch of coast has seen its share of tropical cyclones, most memorably Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Joel Achenbach, Patricia Sullivan