Major shipping ports across the central U.S. Gulf Coast were closed to inbound and outbound traffic on Saturday, as Nate intensified and storm surges of up 11 feet (3.74 m) were expected at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

New Orleans was feeling the first effects shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 7) with winds about 25 miles per hour.

Storm surge warnings were issued in Morgan City, La., to the Alabama/Florida border, and the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

All four states have declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, which will be the third hurricane to strike the USA mainland in six weeks. "The other good thing is it's going to hit and move through our area at a relatively fast rate, limiting the amount of time it's going to drop rain and so forth, but this is a very unsafe storm nonetheless".

"It is moving at an extremely fast rate", said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards at a briefing Saturday, "almost unheard of for a storm of this type".

The National Hurricane Center has a page updating every few hours with the latest watches and warnings for Nate.

Louisiana is bracing for Hurricane Nate as the Category 1 wind makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico. Crews were lowering high masts that hold street lights along the coast to keep the lights from becoming projectiles in high winds. The most severe damage will tend to be concentrated in a relatively narrow zone near and just to the east of the storm center.

But officials warn that it's risky to go outside while a hurricane passes.

On top of the surge, there are giant waves.

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NHC said in its advisory.

After Nate, Kottlowski said the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, could yield one more major hurricane, a Category 3 or stronger.

The first round of model runs Saturday morning showed a bit of an eastward shift in Nate's forecast. "The storm is on us", Landrieu told his city of some 400,000 people - 440,000 when you count the tourists this weekend. Given Nate's fast movement and imminent arrival of bad weather, there's no reason to let any guard down in these areas, even if the worst misses. And its quick speed decreased the likelihood of prolonged rain that would tax the city's weakened drainage pump system.

Nate once was nearly as fast as an Olympic sprinter, but began to lose speed as it made contact with the Gulf Coast. Expect activity to begin to ramp up for our area beginning at midnight tonight and we'll deal with lots of wind and rain through mid afternoon Sunday. Winds can cause significant power outage and the height of storm waves can reach 1.8-2.7 m, he added. The National Hurricane Center predicts it could sustain tropical storm strength into Sunday evening, when it should be passing through Tennessee. What's left of Nate will pass west of Washington, D.C. Sunday, but D.C. will still be close enough to tap into some much needed rain.