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Travelers looking to avoid Tropical Storm Nate may find it's not yet so easy to change plans.
The latest advisories from the National Hurricane Center predict that Nate will reach hurricane status by the time it swirls into the northern Gulf of Mexico, and make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasters have issued storm surge watches, hurricane watches and tropical storm watches for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Officials have already blamed rains from Tropical Storm Nate for at least 22 deaths in Central America.
(In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised its tropical storm and hurricane forecast for this year, predicting an "extremely active season." It expects 14 to 19 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes. Nate is the 14th named storm of the season, and is poised to become the ninth hurricane. The Atlantic hurricane season ends in November.)
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday, as did New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Both advised residents to prepare for the storm.
"If we stay informed, if we stay alert, if we stay prepared, ultimately we will all stay safe," Landrieu said at a press conference on storm preparations.
The ease with which you can shift plans depends on where you're traveling. (See infographic below for tips.)
Several major airlines — including American, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United — have issued advisories related to Tropical Storm Nate. They are waiving the change fees for travelers to reschedule their flights to, from or through New Orleans and other cities along the storm's predicted path.
Nate is a named storm, so it's too late to pick up travel insurance for your trip. If you already have a policy in place, check to see if its protections have kicked in (depending on your coverage, they may not have, yet).