BILOXI, Miss. - Hurricane Nate brought a burst of flooding and power outages to the U.S. Gulf Coast before weakening rapidly Sunday, sparing the region the kind of catastrophic damage wreaked by series of hurricanes that hit the southern U.S. and Caribbean in recent weeks.
Nate - the first hurricane to make landfall in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005 - quickly lost power, with its winds diminishing to a tropical depression as it pushed northward into Alabama and toward Georgia with heavy rains. It was a Category 1 hurricane at landfall outside Biloxi early Sunday.
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.
After daybreak, Sean Stewart checked on his father’s sailboat at a Biloxi marina. Another sailboat had sunk, with its sail still fluttering in Nate’s diminishing winds, but Stewart was relieved to find the boat intact.
“I got lucky on this one,” he said.
Before Nate sped past Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula late Friday and entered the Gulf of Mexico, it drenched Central America with rains that left at least 22 people dead. Nate didn’t approach the intensity of other recent hurricanes - Harvey, Irma and Maria - that left behind death and destruction during 2017’s exceptionally busy hurricane season.
“We are thankful because this looked like it was going to be a freight train barreling through the city,” said Vincent Creel, a spokesman for the city of Biloxi.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the four hurricanes that have struck the U.S. and its territories this year have “strained” resources, with roughly 85 percent of the agency’s forces deployed.