GONZALES — Ascension Parish has opened sandbag locations across the parish as officials say they expect less than a 50 percent chance of tropical storm force winds and up to 3 inches of rain from Hurricane Nate beginning early Sunday.

Seemingly bearing down for the Louisiana cost Thursday, Nate's storm track has shifted eastward since then, though the eastern half of Louisiana remains under hurricane and storm surge warnings along with other parts of the Gulf Coast.

The latest projections show Nate is expected to strengthen into a hurricane and will make a sweeping pass by the eastern toe of Louisiana before making landfall farther east Sunday near the Mobile, Alabama area. 

Parish spokesmen also said the Flambeau Music Festival, which will be at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales, remains on schedule. 

Parish officials issued their latest updates after Parish President Kenny Matassa led a Friday morning meeting of elected officials and staff on Nate.

While the parish also began pumping operations on Wednesday, a parish spokesman said the pumps were not in operation on Friday morning because water levels along inland waterways had been reduced.  

"It's all pumped down," said Martin McConnell, parish government spokesman.  

But parish officials said the operations will continue as needed to reduce normal water retention and rain accumulation in the New River/Bayou Francois basin and in the Sorrento area. The Amite River at Port Vincent is below 4 feet Friday morning and gradually declining, parish officials added.

Ascension residents who require medical assistance during a power outage or evacuation should sign up for the Ascension Parish Medical Special Needs Registry, parish officials said. Call the Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness at (225) 621-8360 or visit www.ascensionparish.net/ohsep to register.

Parish officials added that Parish Utilities of Ascension in Donaldsonville is preparing for continuous operations in case of any power outage while preparations for sheltering residents are also being made.

Sandbags are available from the following locations: 

* 7th District Fire Department on Roddy Road.

* St. Amant Fire Department Station 60 on Stringer Bridge Road.

* Geismar Fire Department at 12171 La. 73.

* 5th Ward Fire Department on La. 22.

* Prairieville Fire Department at 14517 La. 73.

* Ascension Parish warehouse on Church Street in Donaldsonville.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.