Tropical Storm Nate has slammed into the Mississippi coast with powerful winds and torrential rains that flooded streets and highways throughout the region as the fast-moving former hurricane was expected to rapidly weaken as it moved inland.
The fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.
Nate comes on the heels of three other major storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively. However, with winds of 135km/h, which make it a Category 1 storm, the weakest in the five-category ranking used by meteorologists, Nate appeared to lack the devastating punch of its predecessors.
Nate was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm early on Sunday and was expected to weaken as it moved further inland, the National Hurricane Centre said.
The storm's centre will move inland over Mississippi and across the deep south, Tennessee Valley and Central Appalachian Mountains through Monday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Nate made its initial landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi river on Saturday evening and then made a second landfall early on Sunday near Boloxi, Mississippi, where its 46,000 residents were warned that the highest storm surge could reach up to four metres.
The storm surge brought floodwaters over Highway 90 and up to oceanside casinos in Biloxi, while flood waters swept over streets in communities across Mississippi and Alabama, according to reports on social media.
"We have a restaurant and one of our main bars open so they have been OK so far," said Chett Harrison, the general manager at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino in Biloxi where 300 guests were hunkered down.
"No one has tried to leave, thank goodness, because everything is flooded around us," he told a local CBS TV affiliate.
In Hancock County, Mississippi, northeast of New Orleans, rain and wind were gaining intensity and many streets were washing over. Conditions were likely to worsen in the next few hours, said Brian Adam, director of emergency management for the county.
The county evacuated people from low-lying areas and imposed a curfew.
On Saturday states of emergency were declared in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in more than two dozen Florida counties.
In Alabama Governor Kay Ivey urged residents in areas facing heavy winds and storm surges to take precautions.
Some 5000 people in southern Alabama were without power due to Nate, Alabama Power said.