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Heavy clouds descend over the skyline ahead of Hurricane Nate in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

Update 7:00 a.m.

Tropical Storm Nate continued to weaken Sunday morning, but storm surge flooding continued over Mississippi and Alabama, forecasters said. 

Meanwhile, the threat of rain and storm surge for the New Orleans area had long passed. 

The storm was moving about 50 miles east of Meridian, Mississippi, with maximum sustained winds at 45 mph. 

Update 4:00 a.m. 

Nate has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the National Weather Service said early Sunday morning. 

Forecasters have also lifted tropical storm warnings for the New Orleans area and Lake Pontchartrain. 

Tropical Storm Nate's maximum winds are at 70 miles per hour, and the storm was expected to weaken further by Monday. 

The storm is moving further inland over Mississippi and Alabama, forecasters said. 

Update 1:00 a.m.

Hurricane Nate's eye is over Biloxi, Mississippi. 

A storm surge warning has been discontinued from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Point a la Hache. 

Meanwhile, in Jefferson Parish, parish officials terminated their Emergency Operations Center as of midnight. 

Bus services in the parish are expected to resume Sunday. All playgrounds in the parish are expected to reopen Sunday, after officials assess post-storm damage. 

Update 10:00 p.m. 

Hurricane Nate continued to spin toward the Mississippi coast Saturday night, with its eyewall moving over the coast and the eye itself projected to make landfall by midnight. 

The storm is then expected to turn northeast and weaken to a tropical storm by Sunday morning. It will diminish even more as it continues to move over land in the next few days. 

Nate was packing 85 mph winds with some higher gusts Saturday, though only tropical-storm-force winds were expected to impact the New Orleans area, the National Weather Service said. 

A storm surge warning has been lifted for the area from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Mississippi River, and over Lake Pontchartrain, forecasters said. 

Tropical storm warnings were discontinued west of Grand Isle, but remained in effect for the New Orleans area and for Grand Isle to the mouth of Pearl River. 

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority said it would restore limited bus service early Sunday morning on passable roads. Buses will replace streetcars until the electricity that powers them has passed all inspections, officials said. 

Update 8:30 p.m. 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has lifted the city's curfew, after the hurricane warning in place for the area was downgraded to a tropical storm warning.

The curfew was set for 7 p.m. Saturday, with the expectation that strong hurricane force winds and rain could strike the city from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

But Nate's wrath appeared to bypass the city Saturday evening, with some areas seeing only light drizzle. And after the National Weather Service cancelled the hurricane warning for the New Orleans area, Landrieu ordered the curfew lifted. 

However, city officials continued to urge caution, recommending that people stay inside unless necessary to venture out, given that strong tropical force winds could still strike the area. 

Officials also warned of a serious storm surge threat for areas outside of levee protection. 

Update 7 p.m.: 

The Hurricane Warning for the New Orleans area and Lake Pontchartrain has been downgraded to a tropical storm warning, the National Hurricane Center said in its 7 p.m. update Saturday. 

The New Orleans area remained little affected by Hurricane Nate as a 7 p.m. curfew started in the city and the NHC issued a fresh update showing the storm continuing to spin quickly toward the Gulf Coast.

Nate slowed slightly to 20 mph and was making landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi. The center of the storm was about 100 miles south of Biloxi, MS, with maximum sustained winds at 85 mph, a slight decrease from a few hours earlier.

Nate's center was expected to make a second landfall along the Mississippi coast tonight and then pass up through parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee through Sunday.

Strengthening of the storm "appears unlikely" before it reaches the Gulf Coast, the report said.

A hurricane warning remained in effect from Grand Isle to Florida.

Heavy winds and storm surge, not rain, were the main threats to the New Orleans area. 

Update 4:15 p.m.:

Hurricane Nate was sprinting for the Gulf Coast as a near Category 2 hurricane on Saturday afternoon, with the National Hurricane Center gauging its pace at a swift 23 mph, heading north-northwest with 90 mph maximum sustained winds.

The latest National Hurricane Center forecast, issued before 4 p.m., placed the hurricane about 140 miles from Biloxi, MS.

New Orleans is not in the storm's direct path, but at a 3:15 p.m. news conference, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a host of civilian and military officials urged residents and visitors to hunker down now for a storm that's expected to bring the worst of its rains and wind from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Some airlines had started cancelling flights in anticipation, said New Orleans Aviation Director Kevin Dolliole.

Officials expected storm surges of three to five feet along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, but 7 to 11 feet in the Rigoles, Lake Catherine and Irish Bayou. But Landrieu described the chances of storm surge entering the city as "infinitesimal."

The punch of the storm may be gone by early Sunday morning, officials said.

"It's going to hit you hard, it's going to hit you fast and if you're in the way, you're not going to be able to get out of it," Landrieu said.

Hurricane-force winds were most likely in New Orleans East, said Freddie Ziegler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Some winds in the area could eclipse 100 mph.

"Conditions are deteriorating and will continue to deteriorate in the evening and overnight," Ziegler said.

Landrieu urged people to stay inside into the morning, when crews will be out to assess any damage.

"We're in the fight now. This storm is on us," said Landrieu.

"There are a lot of things that can happen if a Category 2 storm starts piercing winds" in the Central Business District. Somebody could catch a stop sign in the head."

Rain is sweeping in bands through New Orleans, with powerful gusts reported 25 miles south in Bell Chasse as early weather effects of Hurricane Nate, now a Category 2 hurricane, arrived in the metropolitan area.

By 1 p.m., Nate was about 100 miles away from its anticipated approach at the mouth of the Mississippi river and less than 200 miles from Biloxi, MS.

It's outer rainbands were moving onshore in southeastern Louisiana. The storm was pushing toward shore at 25 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center advisory.

A boil water advisory was announced for the entire east bank of Plaquemines Parish, as well as for all areas of the west bank of Plaquemines south of Oakville.

The parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said it expects power failures to "cause extremely low pressure or no pressure in some areas. Because of the low pressure, the water supply is of questionable microbiological quality."

Hurricane warnings were in effect from Grand Isle to the Florida border and in metropolitan New Orleans area and Lake Pontchartrain.

Storm surge warnings were in effect from Morgan City to Florida, and on the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

In New Orleans, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority says it had completed the closure of its floodgates by 1:30 p.m., with an emergency operations center now running 24 hours.

The gates, built after Hurricane Katrina, are closed only when storm surge is expected. The agency is asking people to stay away from the levees and Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain during the storm.

The Orleans Marina and South Shore Harbor near the Lakefront Airport have been closed, if not fully evacuated.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.