In the midst of one of the most active hurricane seasons in modern United States history, New Orleans braces for impact as Tropical Storm Nate barrels through Central America en route to the American Gulf Coast. Nate, which has already claimed the lives of at least 22 people in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, may make landfall in New Orleans as a hurricane after having gained strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, warned those living in vulnerable areas to relocate to higher ground. “There is no need to panic,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Be ready and prepare. Get a plan. Prepare to protect your personal property.”

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In addition to the state of emergency in New Orleans, evacuation orders have already been issued for parts of Louisiana, including St. Bernard Parish near the city, while storm surge and hurricane warnings have been issued for the neighboring Alabama and Mississippi coastal areas. As much as a foot of rain is expected in the region, with storm surges of four to eight feet.

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As of early Friday morning EST, Tropical Storm Nate was departing from Honduras and rejoining the waters of the Caribbean, with maximum sustained winds of 45 MPH. It is expected to strengthen as it crosses Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where maximum sustained winds of 60 MPH are predicted. Although the storm is passing, parts of Central America are expected to receive up to 30 inches of rain. The storm has already delivered powerful downpours, which have caused mudslides and flash floods. 15 people in Nicaragua and 7 people in Costa Rica have been killed as a result of Tropical Storm Nate.

Via ABC News

Images via ABC News and Phil Roeder