Nate marches across US East Coast, dumping heavy rains
ATLANTA - Nate slogged its way across the U.S. East Coast on Monday, dumping heavy rains and bringing gusty winds to inland states as a tropical depression, a day after Hurricane Nate brought a burst of flooding and power outages to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
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Nate spared the region the kind of catastrophic damage left by a series of hurricanes that hit the southern U.S. and Caribbean in recent weeks.
Tropical Storm Warnings were canceled for northwest Georgia as the storm weakened over the weekend.
Nate, the first hurricane to make landfall in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005, quickly lost strength Sunday, with its winds diminishing to a tropical depression as it pushed northward into Alabama and Georgia with heavy rain. It was a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore outside Biloxi early Sunday, its second landfall after initially hitting southeastern Louisiana on Saturday evening.
The storm surge from the Mississippi Sound littered Biloxi's main beachfront highway with debris and flooded a casino's lobby and parking structure overnight.
By dawn, however, Nate's receding floodwaters didn't reveal any obvious signs of widespread damage in the city where Hurricane Katrina had leveled thousands of beachfront homes and businesses.
No storm-related deaths or injuries were immediately reported.
Nate knocked out power to more than 100,000 residents in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida, but crews worked on repairs and it appeared many of the outages had been restored within 24 hours.
As of Sunday evening, Alabama Power said it had electricity back to more than 64,000 customers and some 36,000 remained without power, while utilities and cooperatives in Mississippi said it had restored power to more than 21,000 customers who lost power during the storm. In Louisiana, there were scattered outages during the storm, while Florida utilities restored power to more than 37,000 customers.
Mississippi's Gulf Coast casinos got approval to reopen in midmorning after closing Saturday as the storm approached.
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Nate initially made landfall Saturday evening in Louisiana, but fears that it would overwhelm the fragile pumping system in New Orleans proved to be unfounded. The storm passed to the east of New Orleans, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a curfew on the city known for its all-night partying.
"Hurricane Nate had the potential to wreak havoc on Louisiana, but thankfully, we were largely spared major damage," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement.
In Alabama, Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said he woke up around 3 a.m. Sunday to discover knee-deep water in his yard. Although some homes and cars on the island had flooded, Collier said he hadn't heard of anyone needing rescue.
"We didn't think it would be quite that bad," he said. "It kind of snuck up on us in the wee hours of the morning."
At landfall in Mississippi, the fast-moving storm had maximum sustained winds near 85 mph (140 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Nate steadily weakened after its first landfall in a sparsely populated area of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
Nate was expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to the Deep South, eastern Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians through Monday. The Ohio Valley, central Appalachians and Northeast could also get heavy rain before the storm exits Maine on Tuesday.
Biloxi city employees worked before dawn to clear Highway 90, where sand, logs and even a large trash bin had been washed onto the four-lane, beachfront road. Despite the debris, there was little to no visible damage to structures. A handful of businesses had reopened before dawn, and the storm surge that washed across the highway had receded by 6 a.m.
Mississippi DOT crews had to remove over 1,000 pumpkins blown onto Highway 90 in Pass Christian, west of Gulfport.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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