Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana

Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Zeta, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at 2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. ET). (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR via AP)

Hurricane Zeta was speeding toward storm-weary Louisiana and intensifying, with landfall expected as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday afternoon. New Orleans, where a pump system failure has raised flood risks, was squarely in its way.

Life-threatening storm surge and strong winds were expected beginning around midday along the U.S. Gulf Coast, where residents braced for the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic hurricane season.

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

"I don't think we're going to be as lucky with this one," city emergency director Collin Arnold said.

Zeta had been predicted to hit as a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane, but Louisiana residents awoke to updated forecasts predicting a Category 2, with top winds of nearly 100 mph (160 kph) at landfall.

"The confidence is becoming very high that the southeastern part of Louisiana and coastal Mississippi are going to see some significant impacts from this storm," said meteorologist Shawn O'Neil of the National Weather Service in New Orleans.

"The good news for us -– and look, you take good news where you can find it –- the storm's forward speed is 17 mph. That's projected to increase, and so it's going to get in and out of the area relatively quickly, and then we're going to be able to assess the damage more quickly," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in an interview on The Weather Channel.

Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
Palm trees are buffeted by the winds of Hurricane Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)

While state and city officials urged people to take precautions and prepare to shelter in place, there were few signs of concern in New Orleans. Uptown, there were only a few boarded windows, and it was business as usual in the French Quarter. "This one is moving fast and I don't think it's going to do much," said Kelly Ann, a visitor from St. Petersburg, Florida, as she strolled Decatur Street.

Winds picked up and water rose above the docks in Lafitte, a small community south of New Orleans that takes its name from a French pirate. Workers drove truckloads of sandbags to low-lying areas of the town, where thousands of sandbags already lined bayous and roadways after previous storms this season.

New Orleans officials announced that a turbine that generates power to the city's aging drainage pump system broke down on Sunday, with no quick repair in sight. There was enough power to keep the pumps operating if needed, but little excess power to tap if other turbines fail, officials said at a news conference with Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
A worker cleans fallen branches after Hurricane Zeta passed through Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)

Officials said they were running through contingencies to provide power and make repairs where needed should there be other equipment problems. Forecasts called for anywhere from 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 centimeters) of rain to fall in the New Orleans area, but Zeta is expected to be a relatively fast-moving storm, possibly mitigating the flood threat.

Zeta raked across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday, toppling trees and briefly cutting power to more than 300,000 people but causing no deaths, before strengthening again along a path slightly east of Hurricane Laura, which was blamed for at least 27 Louisiana deaths after it struck in August, and Hurricane Delta, which exacerbated Laura's damage in the same area just weeks later.

Early Wednesday, Zeta's top winds grew to 90 mph (150 kph) and its forward movement increased to 17 mph (28 kph) as its center moved north, about 265 mph (430 kph) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
Tourists walk on the beach as the tail end of Hurricane Zeta makes landfall in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)

Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana to the Alabama/Mississippi state line, including Lake Pontchartrain and metropolitan New Orleans. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the western Florida Panhandle, forcing early-voting sites to close for hours in three counties where Republicans dominate.

The center of Zeta should make landfall in southeastern Louisiana in the afternoon, then move over Mississippi in the evening before crossing the southeastern and eastern United States on Thursday, the hurricane center said.

Edwards asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration ahead of the storm. He and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey both declared emergencies, as did Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich in Biloxi, Mississippi. Trump declared an emergency for Louisiana Tuesday evening.

  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    Chris Touchet works to repair H & H Tire in Jennings, La., after Hurricane Delta passed the area Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. The day after Hurricane Delta blew through besieged southern Louisiana, residents started the routine again: dodging overturned cars on the roads, trudging through knee-deep water to flooded homes with ruined floors and no power, and pledging to rebuild after the storm. (Scott Clause /The Daily Advertiser via AP)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    Beach hotel workers store chairs inside as they prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Monday, 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/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    Beach hotel workers cover doors and windows with plywood as they prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Monday, 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/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    Tourists walk past debris littering the street after Hurricane Zeta's landfall in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    A worker secures a dock before Hurricane Delta arrives near Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Hurricane Delta rapidly intensified into a Category 2 hurricane Tuesday on a course to hammer southeastern Mexico and then grow to a potentially catastrophic Category 4 on approach to the U.S. Gulf Coast this week. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    A billboard lays on the ground, toppled by Hurricane Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    Tape closing off the beach blows in the wind before the arrival of Tropical Storm Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Monday, 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/Tomas Stargardter)
  • Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana
    This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Zeta, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, at 10:52 GMT (06:52 EDT). (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR via AP)

Zeta broke the previous record for a 27th named Atlantic storm, taking shape more than a month before that one on Nov. 29, 2005. It's also this season's 11th hurricane. An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms.

The extraordinarily busy hurricane season has focused attention on the role of climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

With yet another storm approaching, worries accumulated for people left homeless. The state is sheltering about 3,600 evacuees from Laura and Delta, most in New Orleans area hotels.

"I'm physically and mentally tired," a distraught Yolanda Lockett of Lake Charles said, standing outside a New Orleans hotel.

Meanwhile, many along the coast renewed an unwanted ritual of preparation.

In Louisiana's coastal St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, Robert Campo readied his marina for another onslaught. "We're down for four or five days, that's four or five days nobody's fishing. That's four or five days nobody is shrimping. That's four or five days, no economic wheels are turning," he said.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Thomas Hymel, an extension agent in Jeanerette with the LSU Agricultural Center. He said the storms have meant more than a month of down time for seafood harvesters, many of whom are already suffering a drop in demand from restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Explore further

Zeta re-strengthens to a hurricane, takes aim at Gulf Coast

© 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation: Hurricane Zeta speeds toward a storm-weary Louisiana (2020, October 28) retrieved 28 September 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-hurricane-zeta-storm-weary-louisiana.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
4 shares

Feedback to editors