NWFL Preparing for Hurricane Nate
Speeding north-northwest through the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Nate is expected to make landfall late [Saturday] evening. Preparations are underway in northwest Florida for come what may.
Packing 90 mile an hour winds, Nate is moving toward land at a breakneck 26 miles an hour.
“The [National] Hurricane center is tracking it right into the coastline tonight, and then probably by late evening coming ashore along the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Meteorologist Jeff Huffman with F-PREN – the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.
He says look for the first rain bands from Nate to come into the Pensacola area around seven or eight o’clock tonight. Extreme southeast Alabama east of Gulfport, Mississippi, up to Mobile is where the storm’s core is expected to hit the hardest.
“There will probably be some hurricane force wind gusts extending all the way east to the Alabama-Florida border,” Huffman said. “And there’s not much more to go to get to Pensacola. So I can’t rule out some wind gusts up around 70-80 mph this evening.”
Dozens of agencies and organizations are monitoring Nate at Escambia County’s Emergency Operations center – which is at Level-3, the highest activation.
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson says the main concern is storm surge.
“We look like we will have storm surge that could be significantly higher than probably those wind speeds, because of the nature of where we are – the east side of the storm,” said Robinson. “So storm surge could be an issue in the barrier islands.”
An evacuation order was issued for low-lying areas along the coast early Saturday morning. The Pensacola Bay Center is serving as a Red Cross shelter – one month after providing the same service in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Gloria – who asked that her last name not be used – is the shelter manager. As of early [Saturday] afternoon, about 50 people had already checked in. She expects more.
“Individuals in trailers and things like that we always ask them to come to a safer place,” said Gloria.
Unlike after Irma, the Bay Center is not accepting pets this time. A pet-friendly shelter is open in Molino.
More than 40% of manned oil- and gas-producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated because of Nate, according to the Interior Department. But Gov. Rick Scott said in Pensacola on Friday that the fuel shortages that plagued Irma’s aftermath are not being repeated.
“With regard to Irma, it was right after [Hurricane] Harvey and the refineries were shut down,” said Scott. “Going into Irma we were low on fuel. We are not low on fuel [now]. We’re fine with fuel.”
After the storm passes through, bridges will be inspected and re-opened if permissible, and the cleanup will begin.