MIAMI -- After battering portions of Central America, Tropical Storm Nate is expected to reach the US Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane.
The storm already has killed at least 22 people in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras, where it caused widespread flash flooding and mudslides, officials said.
Nate is forecast to gain force as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula late Friday and strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall early Sunday along the US Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
Parts of the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastlines were under hurricane, storm surge and tropical storm watches Friday. The storm could drop 3 to 6 inches of rain, with 12 inches possible in some areas, the hurricane center said.
Nate had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph early Friday morning and was moving north-northwest at 14 mph.
New Orleans vulnerable, Florida prepares
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency for his city on Thursday and advised residents to stay put over the weekend.
"There is no need to panic. Be ready and prepare. Get a plan. Prepare to protect your personal property," Landrieu tweeted.
The city's unique drainage system has recently experienced critical deficiencies. Several drainage pumps failed during heavy rainstorms in August, leading to the flooding of several hundred properties. Of the city's 120 main drainage pumps, three major and nine smaller ones were offline Thursday, city records show.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards authorized 1,300 National Guard troops to mobilize ahead of the storm, and some will be in New Orleans to help the city monitor the pumps, he said.
Though no weather warnings had been issued for Florida, the state's western panhandle could be impacted by Nate's wind, storm surge and heavy rainfall, the hurricane center said.
With some parts of Florida still reeling from Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 29 counties and encouraged residents to get prepared in case Nate's forecast track changes. Evacuations could be called, he added.
"Just think about your family: Get your three days of water, three days of food; if you're taking medicine, make sure you have your medicine," Scott said Thursday during news conference.
At least 22 people were killed and several people reported missing as the storm hit Central America, officials said.
Hundreds were rescued from floodwaters, and many had lost power and running water in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, officials said.
The main threat for Central America was heavy rainfall, which triggered life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.
Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis declared a national state of emergency to assist those affected by the storm.
Rain will continue to fall through Friday night in parts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize, forecasters said.