As Zeta's eyewall pushed through Golden Meadow, Louisiana, on Oct. 28, intense powerful winds lashed the area, knocking down trees and damaging homes.
Zeta is on its final journey across the mid-Atlantic and is expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean later today as a tropical storm. The storm is still unleashing damaging winds and causing widespread power outages. According to Poweroutage.US, Zeta is responsible for almost 2 million power outages across the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. Damage surveys are still underway across the Gulf Coast region and photos taken by several of AccuWeather's field reporters show some of the wreckage Zeta left behind as it blew through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Stay tuned to AccuWeather.com and the AccuWeather TV network for continuing coverage.
Zeta remains a tropical storm but its maximum sustained winds are now down to 50 mph, according to the NHC. Zeta is trucking along at a speed of 48 mph and is about 50 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina. According to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell, Zeta's passage through the North Carolina mountains is unusual.
"Only three Tropical Storms have traveled within 100 miles of Jefferson, North Carolina, where Tropical Storm Zeta was located at 11 a.m. ET on Oct. 29, 2020: Hugo (1989), Gracie (1959), and an unnamed storm in 1949," Ferrell said. "The mountainous areas of eastern Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and northwest North Carolina have not seen a Tropical Storm Warning in 20 years, if ever." No tropical storm in or after October has ever tracked across northwestern South Carolina or southwestern North Carolina, he added.
As communities along the Gulf Coast region come to grips with the aftermath of Zeta, the scope of the damage is becoming more apparent. In Waveland, Mississippi, located on the state's coast, the town's mayor, Mike Smith, told WLOX-TV, that the town may have suffered its worst storm damage since Katrina blasted the city in 2005, according to The Associated Press. “We’re going to see a whole lot of damage in the morning,” Smith said, Wednesday. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency shared photos of boats and sand that had been pushed onto the shore along Highway 90 near the town of Long Beach.
Elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala is in Cocodrie, Louisiana, where Zeta made landfall Wednesday evening. Petramala shared a video to Twitter Thursday showing mud, grass and power lines strewn everywhere and also shared a photo of a roof that had been ripped apart by Zeta.
Zeta's trail of damage extends into Georgia, where more than 870,000 are still without power, according to Poweroutage.us. The storm proved tumultuous and deadly in the metro Atlanta area this morning as downed trees wreaked havoc with the morning commute for several major roadways. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), one death was reported in Cherokee County after a tree fell onto a mobile home. Cherokee County sits north of Atlanta. It's believed to be the first storm-related death from Zeta in the Atlanta area, the AJC said. Much of northern Georgia, including Atlanta, is still under a tropical storm warning at this hour.
AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Bill Wadell is on the scene in Alabama this morning surveying storm damage from Zeta. Wadell captured photos showing extensive tree damage on properties in Citronelle, Alabama, including one mobile home that had been "sliced in half" he said. Citronelle is located about 33 miles to the northwest of Mobile, a city that was hit hard by Hurricane Sally in September. Wadell reported that one family was inside a rental house that suffered extensive damage during the storm, but everyone in the family is OK.
According to Al.com, Citronelle Mayor Jason Stringer shared an update that said his city was damaged and urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel so cleanup efforts could progress. “Stay home and off the roads, please. We have people hurt that we are trying to help and we do not need anyone else hurt,” Stringer wrote.
With maximum sustained at 60 mph, Zeta is still a strong tropical storm. Zeta is currently about 50 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina, but is moving rapidly at 39 mph. Forecasters caution that despite weakening, Zeta is still a dangerous storm that will unleash damaging winds throughout the day.
"Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km) from the center," the NHC said. "A sustained wind of 41 mph (67 km/h) and a gust to 82 mph (131 km/h) was recently reported at Cashiers, North Carolina."
The number of people being left in the dark due to Zeta's strong winds continues to climb. More than 1.3 million customers are without power across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, according to PowerOutage.us. These numbers are likely to continue to climb as Zeta charges northeastward at a staggering 39 mph.
A second Zeta-related fatality has been confirmed in the United States. The Biloxi Police Department stated that a person was found deceased at the Broadwater Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Wednesday night. “He may have been down there for the storm,” Biloxi Police Maj. Christopher De Back told the Sun Herald regarding the victim. “We don’t know what the cause is yet. It looks like he drowned, but we don’t know yet.” The other fatality occurred in New Orleans, where a person was electrocuted by downed power lines.
Zeta continues to unravel over land, now at tropical storm strength with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm's center lies 25 miles south-southeast of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Despite the loss of wind intensity, Zeta remains a dangerous storm and the threat for damaging wind gusts of 40-60 mph will continue through the southern Atlantic Seaboard. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been pummeled with power outages, with over 970,000 customers without power across these states. In Clark County, Alabama, the emergency management office reported widespread significant to major damage across the region, including blown out windows, roofs ripped off of buildings and fallen trees on homes and vehicles.
The City of New Orleans released a statement on Twitter warning residents to use caution despite the weather beginning to improve as Zeta races northeastward. Officials are urging residents to only drive if absolutely necessary, due to the dangerous roadway conditions with widespread downed trees and power lines. Intersections with lights out should be treated as four-way stops. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also released the following statement: "Today has been hard. As we continue to weather #Zeta and feel its effects, everyone needs to keep listening to their local leaders and follow any curfews that may be in place. Stay inside and stay safe tonight."
More than 542,000 homes and businesses are without electricity in Louisiana as of 9:15 p.m. CDT, according to PowerOutage.us. Mississippi is also in the dark with more than 167,000 outages and Alabama has more than 105,000 outages, totaling more than 800,000 outages. The outages in Texas and Oklahoma are ongoing from an ice storm earlier in the week. Sporadic tree damage and power outages can occur with wind gusts of 40-60 mph as far to the north as the Piedmont areas of the interior South and perhaps to the mid-Atlantic coast. Major cities well inland, such as Montgomery, Alabama; Atlanta; Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could experience power outages and travel problems due to fallen trees and urban flooding.
As Hurricane Zeta barreled into southeastern Louisiana, the Hurricane Hunters were flying through the eye of the storm to gather as much meteorological data as they could. During this mission, they found that Zeta had rapidly intensified into a strong Category 2 storm leading up to landfall. Breaks in the clouds even allowed the crew onboard to see the turbulent sea raging below the storm.
The first death attributed to Hurricane Zeta has been reported in New Orleans, according to New Orleans EMS. Crews responded to a fatal electrocution related to a downed power line around 8 p.m. CDT in the 8200 block of Palm Street on Wednesday. NOLA Ready reported the incident was related to a downed power line. Emergency personnel warn there are many hazards right now and ask residents to please continue to stay indoors. As of 8:50 p.m. CDT, there are more than 500,000 power outages in Louisiana due to downed powerlines.
Seismographs can be used to detect more than earthquakes. On Wednesday, two seismographs near the Gulf Coast measured an increase in activity, not because of tremors, but because of large waves generated by Zeta. “Hurricanes increase the amplitude of ocean waves which beat on the sea floor and create vibrations that are picked up by seismometers,” Dr. Wendy Bohon said on Twitter. Although the highly-sensitive instruments were able to detect the vibrations, people standing near the coast would not be able to notice the weather-generated seismic activity
Some of Hurricane Zeta’s strongest winds moved right over downtown New Orleans as the eyewall took a direct aim at the city. Wind reports show New Orleans was blasted with wind gusts of 94 mph. Golden Meadow, Louisiana, saw the highest wind gusts of 110 mph, which was just 1 mph shy of being a Category 3 storm, the benchmark for being considered a major hurricane. Bayou Bienvenue, Louisiana, experienced the second-highest wind gust report of 102 mph. Along with the strong winds, storm surge and wind-whipped rain left many coastal and low-lying areas of southeastern Louisiana underwater.
Flooding from Hurricane Zeta proved to be too much for at least one levee in Louisiana. A levee built in Grand Isle, Louisiana, had three major breaches as it failed to hold back the influx of water from Zeta. The levee is located near the coast of Jefferson Parish, located south of New Orleans.
Zeta made landfall in storm-weary Louisiana on Wednesday afternoon, hammering homes and businesses with rain and high winds, which has already knocked out power to hundreds of thousands within hours. More than 363,000 homes and businesses are without electricity in Louisiana as of 6:45 p.m. CDT, according to PowerOutage.us. Sporadic tree damage and power outages can occur with wind gusts of 40-60 mph as far to the north as the Piedmont areas of the interior South and perhaps to the mid-Atlantic coast. Major cities well inland, such as Montgomery, Alabama; Atlanta; Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could experience power outages and travel problems due to fallen trees and urban flooding.
Winds have calmed down in New Orleans as the center of the hurricane is directly over the city. Despite the drop in winds, people should not venture outside to see the damage. “Dangerous winds will return very quickly when the eye moves away,” the National Hurricane Center warned. There are reports of downed trees across the city as well as a rising number of power and internet outages.
New Orleans emergency management officials captured an image of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Wednesday evening as the eye of Zeta was overhead. A colorful sunset can be seen above the stadium due to breaks in the clouds in the eye of the hurricane.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans as the eye of Hurricane Zeta moved overhead on Wednesday evening. (NOLA Ready)
Tropical storm-force winds have arrived in southern Mississippi as Zeta moves inland. Wind-whipped rain is lashing the Interstate 10 corridor, including the coastal city of Gulfport. Winds have already gusted over 40 mph and will continue to rise as the eye of the storm approaches. People in Gulfport and surrounding areas should make sure that all electronic devices are charged incase the power goes out during the height of the storm.
Hurricane Zeta's eyewall has caused significant damage to at least one home in Grand Isle, Louisiana, AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala reported from the area. "Watched this home's roof explode off in the inner eyewall of Hurricane Zeta. Highway 1 is a raging river south of the flood gate,” Petramala reported. Zeta made landfall around 4 p.m. CDT and the eyewall is already quickly approaching New Orleans.
AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala said Hurricane Zeta tore a roof off of a house in Grand Isle, Louisiana. (AccuWeather / Jonathan Petramala)
AccuWeather meteorologists say, based on radar imagery, Hurricane Zeta made landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana around 4:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday. Zeta was packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane. The storm will move very quickly through the southeastern U.S., into the mid-Atlantic, then off the East coast by the end of the week. Hurricane Zeta will be a 2 out of 5 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes for the United States at landfall. AccuWeather Meteorologists say this change is due to Zeta continuing to intensify near landfall with stronger winds that can lead to more damage.
To hold back the waves and 3-6 feet storm surge from Zeta, large walls of sandbags and stones were constructed in Grand Isle, Louisiana. As of 5:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Zeta was packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Zeta is making landfall in southeast Louisiana near Cocodrie.
Grand Isle, Louisiana prepared for Hurricane Zeta with sandbags.(Image via Brandon Clement/LSM)
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that state officials will do what they can to limit disruption to early voting and voting on Election Day due to impacts from Hurricane Zeta. “We are concerned about any power outages that might not be easily and quickly rectified and the impact that could have on the election next week,” Edwards told reporters at a press briefing. “So we are already working with the public service commission but also with the individual electric companies” and “have identified in advance all of the polling locations so that power restoration efforts can be prioritized there in those locations." Across the Florida panhandle, voting sites were closed down on Wednesday as well, The Associated Press reported. All 10 early-voting sites in Pensacola, where rain from Zeta was already falling, were shut down at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the AP reported, and aren’t expected to open again until Thursday at 11 a.m. Officials in nearby Okaloosa County were also reducing hours at polling stations to mitigate risk as the storm impacts close in. Both areas lean Republican, according to the AP.
In a special statement issued by the National Hurricane Center, maximum winds in Hurricane Zeta have increased to 110 mph. To be considered a major hurricane winds must be at least 111 mph or a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Regardless of the exact classification at landfall, the overall impact from Zeta remains the same with widespread wind leading to property damage and power outages, flooding rain that stretches well inland and inundating storm surge that could approach 10 feet in some coastal areas.
Hurricane Zeta continues to get stronger as it is just a few hours from landfall with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph as of 2 p.m. CDT, according to data gathered by the Hurricane Hunters. The GOES-16 weather satellite has also detected lightning in the eye of the storm, another indication that it is gaining strength. Because of the strengthening, AccuWeather has rated Zeta a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale.
Lightning was detected in the eye of Hurricane Zeta as it neared landfall on Wednesday afternoon. (NOAA/RAMMB/CIRA)
Final preparations are underway around southeastern Louisiana as Zeta, moving rapidly at 20 mph, closes in on the region. Photos taken by The Associated Press show floodgates being closed in Poydras, Louisiana, about 30 miles to the southeast of New Orleans. The City of New Orleans' Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness showed a video of the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, which is so vast it can be seen from space, and said that its flood gates have also been closed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority.
A Plaquemines Parish sheriff deputy walks away after workers closed a floodwall gate on Hwy 39 in Poydras, La., Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall this afternoon as a Category 2 storm. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
On top of the anticipated winds, flooding rain and storm surge from Zeta, the hurricane will also bring the potential for tornadoes. At 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday, The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issued a tornado watch for southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the far western Florida Panhandle. “The threat for rotating storms and a couple of tornadoes will gradually increase through the afternoon/evening as the outer eastern and northeastern convective bands [from Zeta] spread inland,” the SPC said. This tornado watch includes New Orleans; Gulfport, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida, and is in effect until midnight.
As forecasters predicted, Zeta has become a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. The National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory that the storm was only about 155 miles south-southwest of New Orleans. Its forward speed had also increased to 20 mph.
According to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, Zeta is the latest hurricane of Category 2 strength or greater in the western Gulf of Mexico on record.
Zeta seen spinning close to the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane (Image/CIRA RAMMB)
AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno interviewed Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, on the AccuWeather Network earlier today for an update on Zeta. Graham discussed the storm's rapid movement and the dangerous winds it will unleash as it moves inland. Graham also discussed with Rayno how Zeta has "tilted" a bit. Watch the interview below.
The U.S. Gulf Coast will bear the brunt of Zeta’s dangerous storm surge, torrential rainfall, damaging winds and even a tornado threat, but the storm’s effects will be far-reaching. Rainfall will be heavy enough to threaten flooding up through the Ohio Valley, central and southern Appalachians and along the mid-Atlantic coast. Voters in Washington, D.C., headed out on Tuesday to vote early, on the first day that polls were open — some of them to beat Zeta’s rainfall. AccuWeather’s National Weather Reporter Emmy Victor spoke with voters who planned ahead and came dressed for the elements. Roxie Diggs told Victor that she wasn’t taking any chances and arrived for early voting in "a nice little jogging suit, my Uggs, and a nice rain jacket, just in case.” Watch the full story here.
The National Hurricane Center said conditions were deteriorating along portions of the northern Gulf Coast as Zeta churns closer to shore. The hurricane is still a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. It's located about 235 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, moving at a rapid pace of 18 mph. Outer bands from the storm are already beginning to move inland and a number of flight delays and cancellations have been reported at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala has become quite familiar with Louisiana this hurricane season. He reported extensively on Laura and Delta's impacts in southwestern Louisiana and is now stationed in Grand Isle, Louisiana, ahead of Zeta. Petramala said Wednesday morning that the town, which is situated on a barrier island, was dealing with early storm surge from Zeta, which is still several hundred miles away. Grand Isle has been faced with mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders six times already this season, Petramala noted. AccuWeather meteorologists are forecasting a storm surge of 6-10 feet in Grand Isle.
On Wednesday morning, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves joined his fellow governors in Alabama and Louisiana by issuing an emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Zeta. "I’ve signed an emergency declaration in advance of Hurricane Zeta. Watch the weather. Be prepared. Emergency operators are working to get ready for storm surge and hard winds—up to 9 feet of surge and winds up to 100 MPH. Stay sharp, stay safe, and pray for God’s protection," Reeves stated on Twitter.
On Monday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency declaration ahead of the storm and he was followed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday. Edwards noted that President Donald Trump had approved Louisiana's request for a federal emergency declaration. "We are grateful for the incredibly fast response," he said. The Louisiana National Guard said it had prepositioned key response assets across 16 parishes to prepare for Zeta including food and water.
AccuWeather meteorologists now expect Zeta to obtain Category 2 hurricane status later today as it charges toward the Louisiana coastline. A Category 2 hurricane has maximum sustained winds that can range from 96-110 mph. However, the storm is still forecast to weaken prior to landfall.
"We anticipate a slight loss of wind intensity shortly before landfall late Wednesday afternoon, but we still expect Zeta to be a Category 1 hurricane at the time of landfall early Wednesday evening," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.
After strengthening overnight and returning to hurricane status, Zeta's wind strength continued increasing Wednesday morning and is now whipping maximum sustained winds of 90 mph as of 7 a.m. CDT. Barreling closer and closer to the Gulf Coast, the storm is located less than 300 miles from New Orleans as it moves north at 17 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Expert meteorologists expect Zeta to make landfall in southern Louisiana on Wednesday afternoon, making for the fifth strike of a named storm on the state this season.
Zeta is seen on satellite early Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020. (Image/CIRA RAMMB)
Zeta continues to become better organized over the central Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained wind speeds now up to 85 mph. "Satellite images show that Zeta is becoming better organized tonight with a ragged eye feature now present, plenty of deep convection and a more symmetric appearance. The improving cloud pattern of Zeta is usually one that favors intensification in the short term," the NHC said in its latest advisory.
Hurricane Zeta began looking more organized on satellite imagery Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020. (AccuWeather)
After weakening to a tropical storm for a time following interaction with Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Zeta has regained Category 1 hurricane status over the central Gulf of Mexico. Maximum sustained wind speeds have increased to 75 mph, according to the 1 a.m. CDT update from the NHC, with the storm's center located 410 miles south of New Orleans.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) states that Zeta's maximum sustained winds have increased from 65 mph to 70 mph, putting the storm just 4 mph shy of Category 1 hurricane strength. The storm is churning over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico about 435 miles south of New Orleans. These warm waters will promote further strengthening prior to landfall along the Louisiana coastline late Wednesday.
A satellite view of strengthening Tropical Storm Zeta on Tuesday night. (AccuWeather)
The Louisiana National Guard is ready to respond with local and state partners to assist the citizens of Louisiana amid Hurricane Zeta. Due to the preparations, several Louisiana National Guard COVID-19 testing sites have been closed on Tuesday, Oct. 27 and Wednesday, Oct. 28 due to Hurricane Zeta. "Across 16 parishes we continue to preposition key response assets in preparation for Hurricane Zeta. We also have commodities (food and water) pre-staged to distribute to citizens post-storm," The Louisiana National Guard announced on Twitter.
The Louisiana National Guard is ready to respond with:
68 water vehicles
8 route clearing teams
Zeta is forecast to strengthen as it tracks across the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and AccuWeather meteorologists have increased the highest projected wind speeds associated with the storm. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ has been increased from 90 mph to 100 mph in southeastern Louisiana, where the worst conditions are expected. "Regardless of this small difference of strength, overall impacts are expected to remain the same," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said. Tropical storm-force wind gusts are possible well inland as the storm tracks northward through Thursday.
As of 7 p.m. CDT, Tropical Storm Zeta was tracking toward the Gulf Coast roughly 410 miles away from the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. Zeta is moving to the northwest at 14 mph and has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. The NHC said Zeta is forecast to strengthen and bring hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge to a portion of the Northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday. Zeta could produce flash flooding across portions of the central Gulf Coast, Ohio Valley, and Mid-Atlantic states through Thursday. The National Weather Prediction Center forecasts 2 to 4 inches of rain with isolated amounts of 6 inches in these areas.
Hurricane warnings are in effect encompassing Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Tropical-storm-force winds will likely begin Wednesday afternoon, with hurricane conditions expected late Wednesday on portions of the northern Gulf Coast, according to the NHC. New Orleans, which has been spared the worst from storms striking Louisiana so far this year, was included in the area under hurricane warnings. Tropical storm watches have been issued northward through Atlanta.
A storm surge warning and tropical storm warning were issued for Cozumel and Punta Allen to Progreso, Mexico, before Zeta made landfall in the Yucatán Peninsula north of Tulum, Mexico, as a Category 1 hurricane Monday night. After the storm departed the area by Tuesday afternoon, residents and tourists ventured outside to gauge the damage and start clean up. Tourists walked past debris littering the street while workers prepared to remove a highway sign and a billboard that were toppled by Hurricane Zeta.
On Tuesday afternoon, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency declaration ahead of the arrival of Zeta. “While this storm is not expected to have an impact as large as storms we’ve seen move through the Gulf earlier this year,we want to be in the best place possible to respond to anticipated rain, storm surge and mass power outage,” Gov. Ivey said on Twitter. Zeta is currently forecast to make landfall late Wednesday and could bring tropical storm conditions to much of Alabama as it pushes inland. “I encourage everyone to remain weather aware and tuned in to their trusted news source as this storm could shift direction or change intensity.”
On Monday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, and on Tuesday, Edwards requested a pre-landfall Federal Declaration of Emergency. “If the current track holds, Hurricane Zeta will be the third hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in two months, and I am incredibly hopeful that President Trump will quickly approve my request for a federal emergency declaration, as he has done before,” Gov. Edwards said.
Storm surge can often be the most devastating part of a hurricane's impact on land. Just about two months, ago Hurricane Laura unleashed a ferocious storm surge that reached 17.2 feet in height. In 2005, storm surge levels of an astounding 25-28 feet along the Mississippi coast were associated with Hurricane Katrina.
Fortunately, Zeta'a storm surge is not expected to be as severe, but it can still cause problems. Current forecasts are calling for a 1-3 foot storm surge from much of the Louisiana coast eastward along the Florida Panhandle coast from Wednesday into Thursday, which would lead to mainly minor coastal flooding. However, there will be a small area of 3-6 foot storm surge near and just to the east of where Zeta makes landfall in the U.S., mainly along the southeast coast of Louisiana. This could lead to more significant coastal flooding in that area, AccuWeather's team of tropical weather experts explained.
Storm surge along coastal Mississippi is expected to remain at the lower end of the 3-6 foot range, resulting in some, but mainly minor coastal flooding, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. If Zeta makes landfall farther east, then a higher surge could occur along the Mississippi Coast as well as into Lake Pontchartrain which would then also lead to greater impacts in more vulnerable regions. Regarding New Orleans, which sits on the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, storm surge is not expected to be a major threat as the main impacts for the city will be damaging wind gusts and locally flooding rainfall.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn Zeta could reach Category 2 hurricane strength (winds of 96-110 mph) as it moves over the warm waters of the Gulf Tuesday and Tuesday night, but then it could weaken slightly into a Category 1 storm (74-95 mph) before it nears the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. During Wednesday evening, Zeta is forecast to track northeastward toward the coastline, striking just southeast of Morgan City, Louisiana, with the center of the storm barreling close to New Orleans. The storm’s projected path has the potential to bring the most significant impacts in southeastern Louisiana and the New Orleans area of any tropical system this season.
As Zeta moves over the northern Gulf, it is expected to pick up forward speed and move along at a breakneck pace of 25 mph as it reaches the Louisiana coastline. The storm’s fast movement will likely lead to a quick rise in coastal waters —much faster than what would be expected by a system moving at a more typical speed of 10 mph. However, the storm’s quick movement will also mean a shorter duration of high winds and torrential rainfall. Click here to read the full forecast.
AccuWeather meteorologists are tracking three major weather events headlining the news on Tuesday and the GOES-East weather satellite captured all three in a single image. This image was taken early Tuesday afternoon EDT and shows Tropical Storm Zeta swirling over the southern Gulf of Mexico, a winterlike storm spreading rain, sleet and ice over the southern Plains and smoke from wildfires burning across California. The satellite has also detected lightning in the outer bands of Zeta, which is forecast to become a hurricane later Tuesday or Tuesday night.
This satellite image shows Zeta, the winter storm in the central U.S. and wildfire smoke over California. (Image/NOAA GOES-East)
As of 1 p.m. CDT, Tropical Storm Zeta was tracking over the southern Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. Zeta is moving to the northwest at 14 mph and has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. It's currently located about 485 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The NHC said the government of Mexico has discontinued all tropical storm warnings for the Yucatan Peninsula.
Zeta seen over the southern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020.
In the latest edition of AccuWeather's Weather Insider podcast, AccuWeather Meteorologist Dean DeVore and Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll provide an update on the forecast for Zeta, including the latest changes in the storm track. Give it a listen below.
The drive-thru testing sites run by the Louisiana National Guard will close on Tuesday and Wednesday, NOLA Ready announced on Twitter. The closure of the sites come as New Orleans is prepping for Tropical Storm Zeta, which is expected to move inland as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday night.
It's been a frenetic hurricane season, and one for the record books. With the season tally of named storms up to 27 following the emergence of Zeta, the 2020 season is only one more named system away from tying the record of 28 from the 2005 season. It's been a particularly grueling season in Louisiana, which has already been battered by four storms, Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta and tropical storms Cristobal and Marco. Now, the state is in the crosshairs of Zeta.
Delta and Laura made landfall in southwestern Louisiana about 13 miles apart and less than two months from each other, while Cristobal and Marco made landfall along the southeastern part of the state. Zeta is currently forecast to move inland as a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday night close to where Cristobal and Marco arrived. It is expected to track over the metropolitan New Orleans area, which is currently under a hurricane warning. The Big Easy has been spared by some of the strongest storms to strike the Gulf this year, despite the hyperactive season. "The Department of Parks & Parkways is removing hazards from neutral grounds that could become projectiles in strong winds...including yard & campaign signs. We're asking campaigns to consider pausing sign distribution ahead of Hurricane #Zeta," city officials said Monday. Ahead of the storm's heavy rainfall, New Orleans officials began making sandbags available starting at 8 a.m. local time Tuesday.
Zeta is still a full day away from making landfall in the U.S., but forecasters are already tracking the storm's future path across the southern and northeastern U.S. AccuWeather meteorologists say the storm will make a rare merger with a winterlike storm currently dropping snow and ice across the southern Plains. This will help fuel rounds of drenching rain and even some snow for the Northeast late this week.
It's rare, but not unprecedented for tropical systems to help produce winter weather, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explained. "October is certainly the time of the year for this to take place. Superstorm Sandy tapped into cold air on its western flank and produced up to a couple of feet of snow on the central and southern Appalachians during late October 2012," he stated. In October 2005 after moving off the east coast of Florida, Hurricane Wilma's moisture fed into a coastal storm, which caused high waves and beach erosion along the northeastern U.S. coast, along with high winds and snow from Pennsylvania up to New England, where more than 20 inches of snow fell, according to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell.
Zeta remains a tropical storm over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, but it is expected to regain hurricane strength once it spins over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta is currently 540 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
The Associated Press reports that much of Cancun was littered with downed trees from Hurricane Delta earlier this month, and many stoplights around town were still out as Zeta arrived. Officials in the state of Quintana Roo reported 60,000 tourists were in the region, and 71 shelters had been prepared, the AP said. "Nobody should be on the streets ... you shouldn’t go out anymore," Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín warned.
Clouds gather over Playa Gaviota Azul as Tropical Storm Zeta approaches Cancun, Mexico, early Monday morning, Oct. 26, 2020. A strengthening Tropical Storm Zeta is expected to become a hurricane Monday as it heads toward the eastern end of Mexico's resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and then likely move on for a possible landfall on the central U.S. Gulf Coast at midweek. (AP Photo/Victor Ruiz Garcia)
Following its impacts over the Yucatan Peninsula, Zeta will track across the Gulf of Mexico and toward the U.S. coast, where AccuWeather meteorologists forecast the storm to rate as a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale™ for Hurricanes. The scale is based on a variety of diverse factors such as flooding rain, high winds and storm surge as well as the total damage and economic impact from the storm, rather than simply wind.
Zeta is forecast to regain hurricane status before reaching the U.S., triggering widespread Hurricane Warnings across Gulf Coast states.
After making landfall near Tulum, Mexico, around 11 p.m. CDT, Zeta has continued bringing heavy rain and damaging winds to the northern Yucatan Peninsula. The storm made landfall with estimated maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, just eclipsing Category 1 strength, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of 4 a.m., CDT, the system had weakened slightly down to tropical storm status with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.