Tropical Storm Nate headed for Gulf Coast, expected to be hurricane by Saturday

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Tropical Storm Nate continued to strengthen on Friday and was expected to become a hurricane by as early as Saturday, as it churned a path toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.

At least 22 people were reported to have been killed in Central America and more than 20 people were missing. A state of emergency has been declared in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, the BBC reported, with landslides and floods complicating rescue efforts.

The storm was last located about 175 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and traveling north-northwest at 21 miles an hour, according to the National Hurricane Center in its latest advisory.

A state of emergency was also declared in Louisiana, with a Hurricane Warning in effect for the area stretching from Grand Isle Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border. A tropical storm warning was in effect for metropolitan New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, and from west of Grand Isle to Morgan City Louisiana.

“Everyone in South Louisiana should be preparing for this storm now,” said John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana. “Anyone who’s taken this storm lightly is making a serious mistake,” he said at a press conference, according to media reports.

What’s happening? Tropical Storm Nate, which started as a tropical depression on Wednesday, has been dumping rain on Central America. It is expected to arrive in the U.S. Gulf Coast within 48 hours.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 miles an hour, with forecasts for gusts to strengthen in the next couple of hours.

Nate is expected to head into the southern Gulf of Mexico by Friday night and to near the northern Gulf Coast by Saturday evening.

“Additional strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Nate is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico,” said the NHC.

The storm is expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain on southern Honduras and western Nicaragua, up to 8 inches on eastern Yucatán and western Cuba and up to 12 inches on the U.S. central Gulf Coast states.

What’s the reaction? Oil and natural-gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuating platforms and rigs ahead of Nate, prompting the shut-in of 254,607 barrels of oil a day, in Gulf oil production, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said late Thursday.

See: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma boost profit for refiners

The mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, also declared a state of emergency on Thursday as he told citizens to get ready:

The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board has been working since the summer to repair pumps that failed to work during flash floods, as The New Orleans Advocate has reported.

The agency’s executive director, Cedric Grant, resigned in the wake of the failure, and the body is now being run by an emergency team. Landrieu said substantial progress had been made with repairs, but cautioned that heavy rain and storm surge could still lead to floods.

Month of hurricanes: The NHC confirmed last week that September was the most active month on record, with four tropical cyclones that became hurricanes. Three of those became major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 or higher. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all caused deaths and substantial damage in the areas where they made landfall.

The season is the third most active on record after 1993 and 2004, according to the NHC.

On Friday, the impact of the storms was evident in the jobs report for September, which showed the workforce shrinking by 33,000 jobs, its first contraction in seven years.

Read: ‘Predictably awful’ — what economists said about jobs report as hurricanes took toll

Check out: Hurricanes may make it look like U.S. ‘lost’ jobs for the first time since 2010

Puerto Rico is among the places still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, with basic clean drinking water and food still a major problem, as are communications.

Read: Elon Musk says that, if given the green light, he can power Puerto Rico

More hurricanes are possible with almost two months to go. Hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30.

Insurer Aon AON, -0.03% said it’s still too early to assess the expected insured losses from the season, but said each storm is likely to cost well into the tens of billions of dollars.

Read: Here’s how hurricane victims can get tax relief

“These events were poised to cause a heavy financial burden for federal governments and the insurance industry,” the company said in a new report. “Additionally, two major earthquakes and a powerful aftershock in Mexico led to catastrophic damage.”

The PowerShares KBW Property & Casualty Insurance Portfolio ETF KBWP, -0.28%  has gained 5.3% in 2017, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.25%  has gained 14% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.14%  has added 15%.