Hurricane Nate is heading to the Gulf Coast after killing 22 people in Central America. Forecasters say the storm will likely strike the Mississippi Delta around 7 p.m. as a Category 2 hurricane. Residents in several coastal parishes have been ordered to evacuate, and polling stations for early voting sites in some areas are closing ahead of schedule. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging residents to find a safe place behind the flood wall as soon as possible and stay put until Sunday morning.
"We will ride this thing out," said Edwards. "I really believe we're in relatively good shape. But no one can afford to underestimate the power of this storm, which has already been deadly elsewhere."
Edwards said the storm is already pushing water ashore in flood-prone areas.
New Orleans officials said inside the levee system, the main concern will be high winds and power outages. But anyone who stays outside the levee is at risk of storm surge and life-threatening flooding. New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said emergency crews were on the ground Saturday morning helping to evacuate residents of several small communities outside the floodgates.
"In advance of the storm, what we've been having them do is go through the neighborhoods to ensure that everyone is aware that we have the ability to get you out," said McConnell. "I know there's water standing on some of the streets already here."
The floodgates closed at noon Saturday.
New Orleans residents are under a mandatory curfew from 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday morning.