Hurricane Nate made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 storm with winds of 85 miles per hour on Saturday evening, threatening parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with torrential rain and potential flooding.
Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf and bearing down on the US South.
As the hurricane struck at about 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT Sunday), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded its warning for New Orleans to a tropical storm. But Nate was expected to regain some strength and make a second landfall along the coast of Mississippi to the east.
"While it appears we're being spared ... our hearts go out to Mississippi," said Amos Cormier, president of Plaquemines Parish, a low-lying area in the New Orleans area.
The hurricane's center was expected to pass over portions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee late Saturday through Sunday night, eventually weakening to a tropical depression. Before then, storm surges of up to 11 feet on the Mississippi-Alabama border were still possible, the NHC said.
Earlier in the day, a state of emergency was declared in the three states, as well as in more than two dozen Florida counties.