Dozens of offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated as Tropical Storm Nate churns through warm waters on a high-speed path toward the Gulf Coast.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a news release that workers had been evacuated from 66 production platforms as of late Friday morning. That's nearly 9 per cent of the 737 manned platforms in the Gulf.
The bureau also said five rigs currently operating in the Gulf also had been evacuated, while 11 other rigs were moved out of the storm's path.
An estimated 71 per cent of the Gulf's current oil production and 53 per cent of its natural gas production has been ``shut-in,'' or temporarily halted, due to the storm.
Offshore facilities will be inspected for damage once the storm passes.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is declaring a state of emergency in Mississippi's six southernmost counties in advance of the arrival of what's expected to be Hurricane Nate late Saturday.
State officials said at a briefing Friday in Gulfport that Nate's main dangers will be a potential for 10 feet (3 metres) of storm-surge in low-lying areas and high winds that could damage mobile homes.
Officials say they will open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, and that buses can transport people who can't drive.
The state's 12 coastal casinos say they are monitoring the situation, but don't plan complete shutdowns. A car show that attracted thousands of visitors is being curtailed.
The storm battered Central America with rain this week, killing at least 21 people.
A hurricane warning has been issued for a stretch of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says residents in those areas should brace for possible storm surges amid the expected strengthening of Tropical Storm Nate. The storm battered Central America with rain this week, killing at least 21 people.
The centre says the storm is likely to strengthen Friday over the northwestern Caribbean Sea before a possible near-hurricane-strength hit on the Cancun region at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Forecasters warn that the storm, after crossing open water, could then smash into the northern rim of the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane.
Damage caused by Tropical Storm Nate has prompted Costa Rican officials to postpone a World Cup qualifying soccer match between that country and Honduras, which had been scheduled for Friday night.
The president of the Costa Rican Football Federation says the game will now be played Saturday afternoon in San Jose, the Costa Rican capital.
The storm killed at least seven people across Costa Rica.
This story corrects item on offshore evacuations to reflect that both oil and gas production platforms are being evacuated, not just oil platforms.
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