It's interaction with land will play a role in the strength forecast of landfall in the Central Gulf Coast this weekend.
New Orleans, where levees were breached during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and other cities on the US Gulf coast were under hurricane watch.
Nate was moving toward the north-northwest near 14 miles per hour (22 kph), and this general track with a marked increase in forward speed is expected during the next day or two.
Nearly three-quarters of U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production is now offline as energy companies brace for the second major storm in as many months to hit the region.
The bureau also said five rigs now operating in the Gulf also had been evacuated, while 11 other rigs were moved out of the storm's path. A vehicle show that attracted thousands of visitors is being curtailed.
Tropical Storm Nate has turned deadly killing more than a dozen people in Central America as it makes its way north towards Mexico and the United States.
In the US, a Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Morgan City, Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border and for the northern and western shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.
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.
As of Thursday night Nate was moving northwest along the east coast of Honduras and was expected to reach hurricane strength when it reaches the central Gulf of Mexico some time late Friday or early Saturday.
That has led to torrential rain falling on Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, setting off flash floods and mudslides that have killed at least 22 people.
Readers in Costa Rica: What is your community doing to respond to the storm?
Rodolfo Villalobos, the head of the Costa Rican federation, said Thursday the match will kick off at 4 p.m. local time (6 p.m. EDT) in the capital San Jose.
This story corrects item on offshore evacuations to reflect that both oil and gas production platforms are being evacuated, not just oil platforms.