Hurricane Nate, after rushing north at a record clip and raking the US Gulf Coast with light winds and heavy rains, made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River, in the latest of a series of deadly storms this season.
Officials repeatedly warned residents to take the storm seriously, in a repeat of a drill that caused thousands of evacuations from Louisiana in August. Nate had maximum wind speeds of 145km/h and threats of storm surge up to 3.3m. Mandatory evacuations were put in place for parts of New Orleans, and communities across Mississippi and Alabama opened shelters for residents.
Nate has already been blamed for 25 deaths in Central America as it swept through the Gulf of Mexico last week.
It is the ninth hurricane to form in the Atlantic this season, which is the highest total since the infamous 2012 season that featured Hurricane Sandy.
In New Orleans, longtime residents, especially those who had survived Katrina in 2005, seemed to be listening, stocking up on water, food and fuel. But the streets in the French Quarter were full of tourists.
Brenda Rushton from Toronto laughed joyfully as she took shelter under a Bourbon St balcony, pretending to give a news update on Nate to her two sisters.
"It's on my bucket list to be in a hurricane," the 55-year-old exclaimed. The women spent the morning drinking hurricane cocktails at Pat O'Brien's down the street. They planned to ride out the rest of Nate from their hotel bar.
"You party till you can't party any more in New Orleans," said native New Orleanian Kay Hayes. "We'll take care of each other."
The National Weather Service changed the city's forecast to a tropical storm, rather than hurricane, warning.
The city did not expect major rainfall totals, in part because Nate was tracking east of the city.