Hurricane Nate raked the Mississippi River area on Saturday as forecasters warned the storm would reach Category 2 strength before coming ashore on the Gulf Coast.
NEW ORLEANS — The Latest on Hurricane Nate (all times local):
Hurricane Nate has made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 storm with winds of 85 mph.
The National Hurricane Center said Saturday night that Nate is expected to make a second landfall along the coast of Mississippi on Saturday night and then pass over parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
The storm has weakened slightly and is moving north a little slower at 20 mph. Evacuations have been ordered along the central Gulf Coast and people are hunkering down as they wait on the storm.
Officials say they have had to rescue people from two sailboats as Hurricane Nate approaches the Gulf Coast, kicking up high waves and winds.
The first rescue happened about 12 p.m. Saturday when two people had to be helped off a 41-foot sailboat that lost its engine in Lake Pontchartrain. The Coast Guard says both sailors were in stable condition.
The second rescue occurred in the Mississippi Sound. Melissa Scallon, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, says a distress call came in around 3 p.m. Saturday after a sailboat struck rocks at Bayou Caddy west of Waveland.
Scallon says the state Marine Patrol responded and plucked three people from the water. She says they were not hurt.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Hurricane Nate is about 50 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River at Louisiana's southeastern tip. The storm is moving north-northwest toward the Gulf Coast at an unusually fast 23 mph.
With maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, Nate had not gained strength as of the center's 4 p.m. advisory. But forecasters said it might still reach Category 2 strength of 96 mph or more by the time it makes landfall.
Nate was on a track that could take it over or near the mouth of the Mississippi by around 7 p.m. on its way to a later landfall on the Louisiana or Mississippi coast.
Officials in Alabama and Mississippi say their states are starting to see impacts from the fast-approaching Hurricane Nate.
On Alabama's Dauphin Island, Mayor Jeff Collier reports water had already begun washing over the road on the island's low-lying west end.
The city of Gulf Shores, meanwhile, has issued an evacuation order for beachfront properties, and shelters have been opened along the state's coastal counties.
In Mississippi, state Emergency Management Director Lee Smithson said 67 people were already in shelters in two coastal counties while strong winds and high tides were driving Gulf of Mexico waters over roads near the Louisiana state line.
And Gov. Phil Bryant says the state's National Guard has mobilized 75 soldiers and the Highway Patrol has moved an additional 60 state troopers into south Mississippi.
Airports in some southern states are closing in anticipation of Hurricane Nate.
The Pensacola International Airport in Florida and the Mobile Regional Airport in Alabama say they are closing Saturday before the storm makes landfall.
The Florida airport said it will close by 6 p.m., remain closed through Sunday and hopefully resume operations Monday morning.
Officials at the Alabama airport said they hope to reopen Sunday around noon.
Officials at the airports say passengers should contact their airlines for information about rebooking flights.
More than 40 percent of manned oil- and gas-producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated, according to an update from the Interior Department, as Hurricane Nate churns toward the U.S. mainland.
The Department said Saturday that workers were evacuated from 312 of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf.
Crews also have been taken off 13 of 20 manned drilling rigs and other rigs have been moved out of the storm's path.
About one-fifth of U.S. oil is produced in the Gulf. The platforms mostly avoided Hurricane Harvey in late August.
Nate is speeding north-northwest over the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night along the central U.S. Gulf Coast — likely with Category 2 strength.
Governors in Louisiana and Florida are urging residents to make final preparations for Hurricane Nate's impending arrival.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday that people in the southeastern part of the state should hunker down by 3 p.m.
He says the storm's eye is expected to make landfall about four hours later, likely bringing limited rain but powerful storm surges and strong winds.
The state National Guard, meanwhile, has mobilized 1,300 troops and positioned high-water vehicles, boats and even school buses from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to help with rescues.
Edwards said he also spoke with President Trump Saturday morning, who assured him the federal government was prepared to respond as well.
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.
Early voting is wrapping up sooner than scheduled in parts of Louisiana because of Hurricane Nate.
Meg Casper Sunstrom, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office, said voters in some southeastern parishes will have until 3 p.m. on Saturday to cast their ballots early.
The parishes affected are in the New Orleans-area, including Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and St. Tammany parishes.
Early voting will continue to close at 6 p.m. in the state's other parishes.
Saturday is the last day of the week-long early voting period. Louisiana has a statewide election Oct. 14, and New Orleans has a hotly contested mayor's race on the ballot.