Nate, over Mississippi, weakens to tropical storm

Nate weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm after rolling into the mouth of the Mississippi River late Saturday.

As of 4 a.m. CT Sunday, its maximum sustained winds were 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported.  Nate was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, weakening as expected..

The storm made landfall about 10 miles southwest of the Mississippi River's mouth and as of Sunday morning was about 80 miles north-northwest of coastal Biloxi, Miss., according to the National Hurricane Center

► Speed: How did Nate pop up so quickly? Expert explains
► Storms: Yes, this hurricane season has been much worse than usual

The center predicted Nate would turn toward the north-northeast then northeast.

After landfall, what remains of the hurricane's eye is expected to pass over portions of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee through Sunday night, dumping as much as 10 inches of rain. The reduction comes as good news to hurricane-weary residents in four Gulf Coast states, which had declared emergency measures, including mandatory evacuations, curfews, beach closures and traffic blockades at flood-prone underpasses.

► Waves: Storm surge is often a hurricane's deadliest, most destructive threat
► Names: How do hurricanes get their monikers?

At Forest Creek Apartments near Pensacola Bay in Warrington, Fla., residents braced for flooding but didn't want to leave. Their complex had flooded three times previously from 2012 to 2014.

"I'm going to just stay at my house, do what I have to do," said Tre'Shawn Trujillo, a 21-year-old who leases a downstairs unit with his wife. "God makes his plans."

Crews were plucked off five drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and other rigs were moved out of the storm’s path before Nate hit, the Interior Department said.

States of emergency were declared in four Gulf Coast states in advance of Nate, which already killed at least 21 people in Central America. It became the latest in a succession of destructive storms this hurricane season.

• In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to take the warnings seriously, saying the storm “has the potential to do a lot of damage.”

“We do want people to be very, very cautious and to not take this storm for granted,” he said.

The Louisiana National Guard mobilized 1,300 troops and positioned high-water vehicles, boats and even school buses from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to help with potential rescues.

President Trump approved an emergency declaration for a large area of the state and ordered federal assistance for Louisiana as Nate approached the central Gulf of Mexico.

In some parts of the state, early voting for next week's statewide elections wrapped up early ahead of the storm. 

In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said 109 of the 120 pumps critical for draining the low-lying city are functioning — a 92% capacity.

“We are ready for whatever Nate brings our way,” Landrieu said. Two flash floods this summer led to revelations about personnel and equipment problems at the agency that runs that system.

Landrieu lifted the city's curfew before 9 p.m. Saturday after the National Hurricane Center canceled its hurricane warning for the city though he advised wanna-be revelers to continue to shelter in place as the storm passed.

• In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in six southernmost counties. State officials warned that Nate’s main danger was the possibility of up to 10 feet of storm surge in low-lying coastal areas as well as from winds that could damage mobile homes.

"This is the most dangerous hurricane to hit Mississippi since Katrina, make no mistake," said Director Lee Smithson of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

He warned people to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. A 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew was ordered for Jackson County just east of Biloxi, where the brunt of Nate was expected because the clockwise motion of a northern hemisphere hurricane creates greater devastation to the east of its eye.

Casinos and resorts along the coast shut down and special events, like a Beach Boys concert in Biloxi, were canceled.

• In Alabama, along the Gulf Coast, some communities imposed mandatory curfews from Saturday evening through Sunday morning. They also ordered beaches and fishing piers closed and issued voluntary evacuation orders.

• In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the roughly 100,000 residents in evacuation zones should heed warnings, stick to their emergency plan and stay vigilant for updates from local officials.

He said the hurricane could bring not just storm surges and strong winds to the Panhandle but also tornadoes.

Contributing: Justin Vicory and Sam R. Hall, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; Joseph Baucum, Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal; Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press