Tropical storm warning issued for Alabama as Nate churns toward coast

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NEW ORLEANS (AP)
Forecasters said Saturday that Hurricane Nate could bring wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour across much of the central part of the state, which includes Birmingham, the state's largest city.

(NOAA)

The storm is expected to down trees and cause significant power outages. Isolated tornadoes were also possible Sunday afternoon.

On Alabama's Gulf coast, some communities have already imposed mandatory curfews from Saturday evening through Sunday morning.

They've also ordered beaches and fishing piers closed and issued voluntary evacuation orders.

On Florida's Panhandle, officials have ordered evacuations in some low-lying areas.

They're also warning beachgoers to stay out of the Gulf of Mexico as the storm is already whipping up deadly rip currents and rough surf.

Flood-prone underpasses in New Orleans will be blocked to traffic in anticipation of possible heavy rain from Hurricane Nate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu made the announcement Saturday as Nate was moving swiftly toward the northern Gulf Coast.

Motorists who stall their cars while trying to drive through high water at the underpasses are a recurring problem during heavy rains.

The move to block access to underpasses comes as the city works to fix recently revealed weaknesses in its drainage system.

Nate was on a forecast track taking it past Louisiana's southeast tip by around 7 p.m., heading for an expected Mississippi landfall.

Among precautions in Mississippi: transportation officials say highway crews are lowering the high masts that hold street lights to keep the lights from becoming projectiles in expected high winds.

Some oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are being shut down as Nate churns toward the U.S. mainland.

Federal officials said Friday that workers were evacuated from 66 oil- and gas-producing platforms in the Gulf, about 9 percent of the total of manned facilities.

The Interior Department says crews also have been taken off five drilling rigs and other rigs have been moved out of the storm's path.

About one-fifth of U.S. oil is produced in the Gulf. The platforms mostly avoided Hurricane Harvey in late August.

Nate is speeding north-northwest over the central Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasters say the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night along the central U.S. Gulf Coast.