MEXICO CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved an emergency declaration for a large area of Louisiana and ordered federal assistance for the state as Hurricane Nate approaches the central Gulf of Mexico.

A White House statement released early Saturday said the president authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate all federal disaster relief efforts. The statement says the move is intended to speed aid, save lives and protect property and public safety in the region. It specifically identifies 17 parishes, many in coastal Louisiana.

The statement comes as Nate is speeding north-northwest over the central Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasters say the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night along the central U.S. Gulf Coast.

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Hurricane Nate has gotten a little stronger as it races across the central Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nate is moving toward the north-northwest at about 22 mph (35 kph) and the core of the hurricane is expected to make landfall Saturday night on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The center says a hurricane hunter aircraft found maximum sustained winds in the Category 1 storm have risen to near 85 mph (135 kph) with higher gusts. Forecasters say some more strengthening is possible before Nate makes landfall.

At 8 a.m. EDT Saturday, Nate was centered about 245 miles (395 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. A hurricane warning is in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border as well as for the New Orleans metro area and nearby Lake Pontchartrain.

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The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Nate continues rapidly moving over the central Gulf of Mexico.

The Miami-based center says in its 4 a.m. CDT update that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (128.74 kph). The storm was located about 345 miles (555.2 kilometers) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving north-northwest at 22 mph (35 kph). Forecasters say Nate likely will reach the U.S. Gulf coast near New Orleans late Saturday.

and Louisiana ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of its expected landfall Saturday night or early Sunday. Evacuations began at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf.

Mississippi’s government said it would open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, with buses available for people who can’t drive.

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The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Nate is heading toward the central Gulf of Mexico and is likely to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast over the weekend.

The Miami-based center says the storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (128.74 kph) and was likely to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, reaching the U.S. Gulf coast near New Orleans late Saturday.

Louisiana and Mississippi officials declared states of state of emergency and Louisiana ordered some people to evacuate coastal areas and barrier islands ahead of its expected landfall Saturday night or early Sunday. Evacuations began at some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf.

Mississippi’s government said it would open 11 evacuation shelters in areas away from the immediate coast, with buses available for people who can’t drive.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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