Tropical Storm Nate is expected to cut across the Yucatan peninsula and emerge into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday morning, making a predicted landfall south of New Orleans as a Category 1 hurricane by sunrise Sunday, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

"It's moving pretty fast," said Robert Ricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's New Orleans/Baton Rouge regional office.

A Category 1 hurricane is defined as having wind speeds of 74 to 95 miles per hour.

A fast-moving storm that's expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds, Nate could also inundate areas of the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines with 3 to 6 feet of water. Still, it could be out of Louisiana by 1 p.m. Sunday, Ricks said.

Exactly where Nate will land is becoming more clear. The storm could make landfall anywhere from the Atchafalaya Basin east to the Alabama state line, Ricks noted, adding that "right now, the official track would have landfall south of New Orleans."

"It could wobble quite a bit," Ricks said. "It's still three days away."

South Louisiana residents should begin seeing the effects of the storm by Saturday afternoon and evening, he said. Tides have already been up 1 to 2 feet higher than usual this week, due to an earlier, unrelated disturbance that brought strong east winds. 

"The water has come down a little bit since then," but Nate will drive tides back up again and higher, he said.

Tropical Storm Nate's fast pace is typical of storms that appear in the fall, when there are stronger winds aloft that "move them faster," Ricks said.

"In the dead of summer, when there's not as much wind," storms can stall and hover, the way Hurricane Harvey did, he said.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who on Thursday received a briefing on the weather situation, has directed city-parish crews to begin canvassing and clearing drainage canals around the parish, removing debris, and readying operations for sand and sandbag deployment should that become necessary.

In Ascension Parish, officials said on Thursday that they had ceased pumping from their major station in the McElroy Swamp Wednesday night after firing up it earlier that day due to high water being driven by the stronger east winds earlier in the week.

Martin McConnell, parish government spokesman, said the operation had reduced water levels enough so that pumping is not necessary at the present time but water levels are being monitored.

"There's nothing left to pump," he said.

Officials in both Ascension and Livingston parishes shut inland waterways earlier this week due to the higher water.

Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes are monitoring the storms and have filed emergency declarations as precautionary measures to allow them to get assistance in case of a serious hurricane, according to their respective emergency management departments.

Vicki Travis, deputy homeland security director for Tangipahoa Parish, said that if the forecast stays as it is, the parish will begin distributing sandbags on Friday afternoon. 

The Flambeau Music Festival, scheduled this weekend in Ascension Parish, is moving forward as planned at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, a parish government spokesman said early on Thursday.

Southern University moved up its homecoming game against Alabama A&M to 1 p.m. Saturday, while canceling the homecoming parade and other activities.

In Hammond, Southeastern Louisiana University announced Thursday that it was rescheduling its homecoming activities. SLU's football game on Saturday, originally slated to be the university's homecoming game, has been moved to 10 a.m., as a precaution, and homecoming will now be held at SLU's Oct. 28 game against Sam Houston State University.

Related homecoming events already scheduled for Thursday night and Friday will remain scheduled as originally planned, the university said.

Media reports late Thursday afternoon attributed 17 deaths in Central America to Tropical Storm Nate, due to heavy rainfall and flooding. Fifteen of those deaths came in Nicaragua and two fatalities were reported in Costa Rica.

Advocate writers Caroline Grueskin and David Mitchell contributed to this story.

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.