Tropical Storm Nate takes aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS -- Tropical Storm Nate threatens to reach hurricane strength before making weekend landfall as the U.S. Gulf Coast braces for a fast-moving blast of wind, heavy rain and rising water.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. A hurricane warning was issued a few hours later for metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller asked New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu if he can guarantee residents that the city's pumping system will work as it should.
"As a matter fact I can," he said. "We have more than enough pumping and man power capacity to handle this rain event."
Forecasters said in a Friday evening NHC advisory that the storm was growing in strength, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 60 mph and higher gusts.
"Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 36 hours, and Nate is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico," the advisory said.
States of emergency were declared in all three states as Nate -- which has already killed at least 21 people in Central America -- became the latest in a succession of destructive storms this hurricane season.
Nate is forecast to dump 3 to 6 inches of rain on the region -- with isolated totals of up to 12 inches. That much rain led authorities to warn of flash flooding and mudslides. By midafternoon Friday, Nate was moving at a speed of 21 mph. It was expected to move near or over the coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula late Friday and make landfall in the U.S. late Saturday or Sunday.
Evacuation orders were issued for some coastal communities, including the Louisiana towns of Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle.
Shelly Jambon, owner of Sureway Supermarket in Grand Isle, said she plans on riding out the storm at her store even though it's across the street from the beach. She bought it two years before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and has weathered far more threatening storms than Nate.
"It's a mild one for us," she said. "Seventy to 80 mph winds? We get that in a winter storm."
The state mobilized 1,300 National Guard troops. Some were headed to New Orleans, where summer storms already have exposed problems with the city's fragile pumping system.
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