Hurricane Nate strengthened slightly on Saturday as it churned through the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to hit the US central Gulf Coast as a Category 2 storm after it killed at least 25 people in Central America.
The outer bands of the hurricane were expected to batter parts of the US Gulf Coast with tropical storm-force winds on Saturday evening,
with the center of the storm forecast to make landfall overnight, said US National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
Major shipping ports across the central US Gulf Coast were closed to inbound and outbound traffic on Saturday, as Nate intensified and storm surges of up 11 feet (3.74 meters) were expected at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The US Coast Guard ordered the closures beginning at 8 am local time for New Orleans; Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola and Panama City, Florida.