A tropical storm that has caused at least 22 deaths in Central America is on course to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane over the weekend.
Tropical Storm Nate, which had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) by Thursday night, looks likely to strengthen over the northwestern Caribbean today before possibly striking the Cancun region at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at near-hurricane strength.
It is predicted to upgrade to a hurricane before hitting New Orleans late Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday, which could be cataclysmic for the area that is still recovering from extensive destruction from Hurricane Katrina.
Louisiana officials have declared a state of emergency and ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of Nate’s expected landfall. Evacuations have also began at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf, the Associated Press reports.
Nate’s arrival is expected to produce heavy rain from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachians, according to the Weather Channel. It is also likely to lead to serious flooding and mudslides in Central America over the next few days.