‘We are fortunate this morning’: Crews assess Hurricane Nate damage

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Gerald Herbert, AP

News crews film a sailboat that washed ashore along the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi in the aftermath of Hurricane Nate on Sunday.

Crews along the Mississippi Gulf Coast began assessing damage Sunday morning after Hurricane Nate made landfall near Biloxi around 12:30 a.m.

Preliminary reports at first light Sunday morning indicated no loss of life and “minimal structural damage,” officials at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said. About 32,000 Mississippi customers were without power Sunday morning.

Hurricane Nate made landfall in Biloxi as a Category 1 hurricane with winds in excess of 70 miles per hour and storm surges up to 10 feet.

“We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a news conference Sunday morning. “Some damage has been done, particularly in the area where the surge caused most of the primary damage.”

Some flooding from storm surge occurred late Saturday night and Sunday morning. Storm surge waters receded Sunday morning, revealing damage and debris along U.S. Highway 90 and in low-lying neighborhoods.

Ahead of the storm, Bryant declared a state of emergency for areas along the coast and signed an executive order authorizing the use of the Mississippi National Guard and qualifying the state for federal disaster relief funding, if needed.

Bryant, alongside representatives of MEMA, Harrison County Emergency Management and other agencies, said he has been in touch with Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long Sunday morning.

Officials Sunday morning praised efforts from local and state officials who had about three days to prepare for the storm.

“We did not dodge a bullet in Mississippi,” MEMA Director Lee Smithson said. “We got hit head on, at night, by a Category 1 hurricane. If that same storm would’ve hit us 15 years ago, we would’ve had extensive damage and loss of life. After Katrina, we rebuilt and are better now than we were in 2005.”

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is clearing portions of U.S. 90 with significant sand deposits and water covering the roadway in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

“MDOT’s first responders began efforts to clear roadways as the storm moved onshore last night,” MDOT Transportation Commissioner Tom King said, in a news release. “Crews removed debris from highways as it was reported and are currently out continuing to assess damage caused by Hurricane Nate.”

On Saturday night, American Red Cross sheltered 1,198 people in 18 shelters throughout southeast Mississippi, the Sun Herald reported.

The National Hurricane Center on Friday morning had issued hurricane and storm surge warnings from Grand Isle, La. to the Alabama-Florida border.

Nate weakened considerably Sunday as it made its way northeast through Alabama. Gulf Coast and Pine Belt residents are expected to see some lingering showers from the tropical system Sunday, but additional flooding is not a concern.