Storm weary Lousianians watched warily the approach of Hurricane Nate Friday as the National Weather Service expanded the hurricane warning area in southeastern Louisiana to include the New Orleans Metro area, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes and the parishes around Lake Pontchartrain .
Tropical Storm Nate is predicted to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane sometime between 8 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, Alek Krautmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's New Orleans/Baton Rouge office said late Friday afternoon.
Earlier on Friday, the area of hurricane warning included the Louisiana coast eastward from Grand Isle, which includes lower Jefferson, Plaquemine and St. Bernard parishes, all areas that remain under a hurricane warning, Krautmann said.
The expansion of the hurricane warning is "to account for any slightly westward track or maybe a slightly better-shaped storm or a slightly stronger storm," he said.
The hurricane could hit the Louisiana coast in the night hours Saturday or early morning hours Sunday and the National Weather Service is advising residents who live outside the levee system, in lower Plaquemine, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes and Grand Isle, to shelter in place Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
"There is some concern it will be dark when the storm comes," Krautmann said. "This is the time to shelter in place. Do not drive. You could be driving into a life-threatening storm surge."
Storm surges of 4 feet to 7 feet are expected on the coast.
Hurricane Nate will bring Category 1 hurricane-strength winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, Krautmann said. The National Weather Service is expecting tropical storm force winds to begin Saturday afternoon.
"There's a potential across south Louisiana and New Orleans for power outages," he said.
"Residents should plan to have flashlights with fresh batteries, non-perishable food and water and cash on hand and fill the car up with gas" before the storm, Krautmann said.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. John Bel Edwards encouraged people to be cautious during the storm and asked that they not get on the road after 8 p.m. Saturday.
Though the storm is moving quickly and has shifted east, the storm surges and winds could cause real problems, he said. He added that the storm will be a "night time event," meaning it will be difficult to see the depth of water in the roads or the strength of the current.
"No one should take this storm lightly," Edwards said. "As we know from past storms, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact."
He advised people to get supplies early and monitor weather reports and directives from local authorities.
Saturday is the final day of early voting for the Oct. 14 election, he noted. Although nearly all voting precincts are still open, he asked people to vote early in the day.
"If you're going to early vote tomorrow, early vote early. Don't early vote late," he said.
Edwards said that 15 National Guard soldiers trained on watching the pumps and reporting problems have been stationed in New Orleans.
He added that, with respect to the pump capacity and electricity, “S&WB in New Orleans is much better positioned than they have been in many months.”
“The forecast for rain in New Orleans is less than what they often receive in afternoon thunderstorms in the summertime, and so while there might be some isolated areas of street flooding until the pumps can pump the water down, at this point, we don't see much happening beyond that in New Orleans,” the governor said.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the Mayor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said Friday that the National Weather Service doesn't foresee any watches or warnings for the Baton Rouge area.
A statement from the mayor's office said that wind speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour are predicted across the parish during the storm, with rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches, with isolated higher amounts.
Residents should limit travel in the early evening hours of Saturday and stay indoors through the night, if possible, the mayor's office advised.
The Capital Area Transit System will halt services between 6:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunda…
People should stay away from downed trees and report those by calling the city-parish 311 hotline or by using the Red Stick 311 mobile app, according to the mayor's office.
Residents can also get up-to-date information on weather conditions by calling the Mayor's Office of Homeland Security at (225) 389-2100.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Operations Center is not activated currently but "staff is continuously monitoring conditions and essential personnel are on standby to report should the need arise," the mayor's office said.
Baton Rouge Metro Airport officials said Friday that Tropical Storm Nate may impact flights at the airport over the weekend, particularly on Sunday morning."
The airport advised people to monitor their flights by checking the airline's website, signing up for flight alerts or calling the airline's reservations department.
Elsewhere, this weekend's Angola Rodeo in St. Francisville was cancelled, "out of an abundance of caution," the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections said Friday evening.
Ticket holders will be refunded their money, with a process for that being worked out, the department said in a statement.
The Angola Rodeo continues on Oct. 15, 22 and 29, it said.
In Ascension, parish officials noted Friday afternoon that the parish has, for three consecutive forecasts, been outside the cone of probability for the path of Tropical Storm Nate, an important benchmark for emergency planning.
Also, the chance that the parish will see tropical storm force winds has been reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent since Friday morning, while 1 to 3 inches of rain remains the expectation this weekend, said Kyle Gautreau, parish government spokesman.
The parish plans to close its emergency operations Friday night, but emergency staff will continue to monitor the storm.
GONZALES — Ascension Parish has opened sandbag locations across the parish as officials say …
Drainage crews also won’t be on full-time alert at this point but pumping will continue as needed.
In Livingston Parish, Homeland Security Director Mark Harrell said he isn't expecting a major impact from the hurricane.
"Everybody is ready. We know the routine," he said. "We’ve been blessed with this storm it looks like."
Still, a small crew from the Public Works Department will be working this weekend, he said, adding that the power companies are also staffed to deal with outages.
He has not yet activated an emergency operations center.
To the east, Tangipahoa Parish has activated its crisis action team and will activate a full emergency operations center at 8 a.m. Saturday, according to Deputy Homeland Security Director Vicki Travis.
Meanwhile, residents and municipal governments in the low-lying parts of Livingston Parish were preparing Friday. Water has been high in these regions over the past week, due to a southeast wind that has held water in Lake Maurepas and the Amite River.
Some roads in Maurepas, French Settlement and Killian were covered with water already this week, though that water has gone down some.
Lawrence Callendar, emergency manager for French Settlement, said the town is preparing for a storm surge, which compounded with the already high Amite, could cause flooding in the area. He is also watching out for heavy water flow into the area as it drains from further north in the parish.
That flooding should not be too severe, as long as the storm surge stays to the predicted 1 to 3 feet, he said.
"Right now, we’re in the antsy thing. We’ve got a good plan. We’ve got to follow the plan,” he said. “After last year, you just don’t want to go through anything like that again."
He said people stocked up Friday on food, water and gas. In addition, the Police Department was planning to make checks on elderly people Friday night.
Larry O'Neill, who lives in Maurepas, said he moved his car, motorcycle and trailer to higher ground in French Settlement in advance of the storm.
He said neighbors were picking items up from backyards, and those without elevated houses — his sits on 10 foot stilts — were placing valuables at least 4 feet up.
"That's part of living on the river," he said. "If you can't deal with these storms, you can't live on the river."
O'Neill, a retired insurance adjuster and member of the new gravity drainage board, said many of the people who did not elevate their homes after Hurricane Isaac could flood again. He is concerned about the levee and pumping systems in nearby parishes, including Ascension Parish, that he believes cause more water to flow into southern parts of Livingston.
Sand and sandbags will be available at the following locations in East Baton Rouge Parish:
— BREC Airline Highway Fairgrounds, 16072 Airline Highway
— BREC Doyles Bayou Park, 7801 Port Hudson-Pride Road
— BREC Memorial Stadium, 1702 Foss Street
— BREC Lovett Road Park, 13443 Lovett Road
Residents are encouraged to bring their own shovels to fill the bags.
Advocate writers Caroline Grueskin and David Mitchell contributed to this story.