MEXICO CITY (AP) - Hurricane hunter planes have found Tropical Storm Nate growing stronger just off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Nate has top sustained winds of 65 mph (105 kph) and is situated about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, on Friday night.
The tropical storm is moving north-northwest at 22 mph (35 kph). Forecasters expect it to turn north late Saturday, when it will approach the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S. Landfall is expected there Saturday night or Sunday.
The hurricane center says conditions are favorable for Nate to continue strengthening as it crosses the Gulf.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami has issued a hurricane warning for metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
The warning comes on top of one issued earlier Friday for the area between Grand Isle, Louisiana, and the Alabama-Florida border.
The NHC says Tropical Storm Nate was growing in strength and was expected to be a hurricane by the time it reaches the U.S. late Saturday or early Sunday.
Nate barreled through Central America earlier in the week, claiming at least 21 lives. It is expected to pass near or over the coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula late Friday.
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 percent 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 percent of the Gulf's current oil production and 53 percent 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 meters) 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 center 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.
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