Tropical Storm Nate killed at least 22 people as it barreled through Central America on Thursday. The deadly storm now heads toward the southern U.S., where it’s expected to hit this weekend as a Category 1 hurricane.
On its current track, Nate will hit the northern Gulf Coast late Saturday or early Sunday and will be the third major storm, after Harvey and Irma, to strike the southern U.S. this season.
Nate is currently forecast to make landfall somewhere between Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, bringing winds of around 80 mph (129 kph), storm surges, and heavy rainfall.
Officials from Texas to Florida have advised residents to prepare. Authorities in New Orleans, Alabama, and 29 Florida counties declared states of emergency.
“There is no need to panic,” New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted on Thursday. “Be ready and prepare. Get a plan. Prepare to protect your personal property.”
Nate has already wreaked havoc in Central America, where the heavy rains were responsible for at least 22 deaths. Nicaragua was the worst affected, with at least 11 people killed, seven reported missing and thousands evacuated from their homes due to flooding.
In Costa Rica — where a national state of emergency was declared — eight were killed, 17 reported missing, and more than 7,000 took refuge in shelters. In Honduras, two youths drowned in a swollen river, while in El Salvador, a man was killed in a mudslide.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that life-threatening flash floods and mudslides remained possible in affected Central American countries throughout Friday.
The storm is also expected to lash the Mexican resort cities of Cancun and Cozumel as it crosses the Yucatan peninsula towards the U.S. Friday, potentially reaching hurricane strength later in the day.
The Atlantic has already experienced five major hurricanes – of Category 3 or higher – during the 2017 season so far.