Hurricane Zeta live updates: Category 2 storm makes landfall in Louisiana Wednesday afternoon

Cheryl McCloud

Doyle Rice
 
| USA TODAY

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Hurricane Zeta to wallop eastern US with rain, wind and maybe snow

After lashing the Gulf Coast and Southeast, much of the eastern U.S. braces as Hurricane Zeta’s remnants are forecast to bring rain, wind and possibly snow to the Northeast.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall Wednesday afternoon near Cocoderie, Louisiana, with winds estimated at 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. 

Zeta is the 11th tropical storm or hurricane to hit the U.S. this year, an all-time record high for the nation. It’s also the fifth tropical storm or hurricane to hit Louisiana this year, an all-time record for the state. 

Louisiana has had the worst of it this year, hit by two tropical storms and now three hurricanes. New Orleans has been in the warning area for potential tropical cyclones seven times this year, with each one veering to the east or west.

Latest updates:

  • Zeta raked across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, weakening to a tropical storm over land before strengthening again over the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Mississippi state line, including Lake Pontchartrain and metropolitan New Orleans.
  • Zeta’s path is similar to both Hurricane Laura, which socked Louisiana in August, and Hurricane Delta, which rake the area just weeks later.
  • As with many landfalling tropical systems, Zeta will bring a threat for tornadoes along its track, the National Weather Service said. These tornadoes typically spin up quickly and are short lived but intense. 

This story will be updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest updates.

Forecasters say the eyewall of powerful Hurricane Zeta is approaching New Orleans as it is being buffeted by high winds.

The National Hurricane Center said a life-threatening storm surge is also occurring after Zeta powered ashore Wednesday afternoon on the south Louisiana coast.

Forecasters are warning those in Zeta’s path not to venture out when the calm eye of the hurricane passes overhead. “Dangerous winds will return very quickly when the eye moves away, Stronger winds, especially in gusts, are likely on high rise buildings,” the hurricane center said in a statement.

Winds already where whipping through New Orleans as Zeta started to hammer the city. Only one or two cars could be seen on the streets and a bridge across the Mississippi River was hidden behind a wall of storm clouds. The wail of a police siren could be heard, and power outages were being reported in various neighborhoods around New Orleans.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he expects Hurricane Zeta to bring 100 mph winds to New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana later when the storm makes landfall somewhere near the Terrebone-Lafourche parish line.

“It’s going to be a rough evening,” Edwards said Wednesday during a press conference. “Hurricane Zeta is literally on our doorstep.”

He said thousands will likely lose power, but Entergy has mobilized more than 5,000 linemen to begin restoring electricity Thursday morning.

“We do believe this will be primarily a wind event,” said Edwards, although he noted storm surge forecasts of up to 8 feet. “New Orleans will likely see winds in the 100-mph range.”

Edwards said more than 1,500 Louisiana National Guard men and women have been activated to respond to the storm and for search and rescue.

– Greg Hilburn, Monroe News-Star

New Orleans residents are being asked to get off the roadways by 2 p.m. as tropical storm winds from Hurricane Zeta start reaching the city. 

“It’s coming fast, it’s coming strong,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell during a Wednesday morning press conference addressing the impact of the possible Category 2 storm. 

Zeta is forecast to produce 40 to 50 mph sustained winds with gusts reaching 95 to 100 mph, according to Collin Arnold, director of New Orleans Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness.

“It’s moving fast, between 20 to 30 mph. But as fast as it is going to leave us is as fast as it is going to come to us,” Arnold said during the press conference telling residents to be off the streets by 2 p.m.

Residents should expect to lose power and see downed trees and tree limbs following the storm, Arnold said.

– Maria Clark, the American South

Hurricane Zeta strengthened overnight and was poised to strike Terrebonne and Lafourche Louisiana on Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane, forecasters said.  

As of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, Zeta was 100 miles south-southwest of New Orleans and was moving north-northeast at 22 mph with sustained winds of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

The storm is then forecast to shift north-northeast before making landfall Wednesday afternoon near Port Fourchon as a Category 2 hurricane. Zeta could drop 2 to 4 inches of rain and produce 3 to 7 feet of storm surge, forecasters said. 

Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson issued a mandatory evacuation for the residents and businesses south of the Leon Theriot Floodgate in Golden Meadow and other low-lying areas of the parish and a voluntary evacuation for residents living south of U.S. 90.  

– Dan Copp, The (Houma, La.) Courier

  • Location: about 10 miles south-southwest of New Orleans
  • Maximum sustained winds: 105 mph
  • Movement: north-northeast at 25 mph 

Forecasters say Zeta will skirt the Mississippi coast Wednesday evening before moving across the southeastern and eastern United States Thursday. In Mississippi, Hattiesburg and Forrest County are among the areas that have declared emergencies in preparation for the storm. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said there is an emergency evacuation for vessels at HarborMaster Marina in Gulfport.

Air Force Hurricane hunter aircraft reported early Wednesday that Zeta was strengthening. Life-threatening storm surge and strong winds expected along portions of the northern Gulf Coast beginning midday.

– Jimmie E. Gates and Mary Irby-Jones, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents to prepare for the record fifth tropical cyclone to make landfall in the state this year. “The good thing and the bad thing is we’ve had a lot of practice this year,” Edwards said.

In neighboring Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey also issued a state of emergency. The order went into effect at 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

“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,” Ivey said.

– Kirsten Fiscus, Montgomery Advertiser; Greg Hilburn, Monroe News-Star

More: New Orleans, bayou region brace for Hurricane Zeta in storm-weary Louisiana

‘One, two, three punch’: Back-to-back hurricanes and COVID-19 complicate voting in Lake Charles

Entergy’s Louisiana utilities are prepared to mobilize a storm team of approximately 3,800 workers to respond to any outages. Entergy spokesman David Freese said work crews were standing by to restore power outages that might arise, but some customers in the direct path of Zeta could experience outages for up to 10 days.   

“While 90% of customers will be restored sooner, customers should plan for the possibility of being in the hardest-hit area,” Freese said. “Every storm is unique, and once the storm passes, we will keep customers informed regarding our restoration efforts.” 

While some work to restore power can be done on the ground, work in the air from bucket trucks cannot be performed in wind conditions of 30 mph or greater.

– Dan Copp, The (Houma, La.) Courier

Similar to Hurricane Laura – which touched down in the U.S. around late-August – remnant moisture of Zeta has a high probability to reach New Jersey by early Friday morning, resulting in cold rain and a small chance of some wet snow, according to Jonathan Carr, who runs Weather NJ.

When Zeta begins to make its way toward the central part of the country, then up toward the East Coast, its remnants are expected to collide with a disturbance moving from the Colorado Rockies sometime Thursday morning, Carr said.

“Meanwhile, with cold air pressing south, the rain will mix over to snow and sleet in the Poconos, Catskills, northwestern New Jersey, the Hudson River Valley, and northern Connecticut with minor snow accumulations under 4 inches expected,” DiMartino said. DiMartino said most of the snowfall will be on “cold surfaces,” with windy conditions expected for most of Thursday and Friday.

– Joshua Chung, Asbury Park Press

Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore and self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” of storms is tracking Tropical Storm Zeta from Gulfport, Mississippi.

“I thought October was supposed to be a quiet month … It’s 2020,” Cantore joked Tuesday. 

Cantore is no stranger to Gulfport this hurricane season. He chased Hurricane Sally down the Gulf Coast last month from Mississippi to Alabama to Florida. 

– Daniella Medina, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Contributing: The Associated Press

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