- Zeta is the 27th named storm of one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.
- Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are expected along portions of the northern Gulf Coast by late Wednesday.
- Zeta made landfall late Monday evening just north of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.
Louisiana was once again under a hurricane warning on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Zeta swirled across the Gulf of Mexico on a path that could hit New Orleans by Wednesday afternoon.
As of 10 p.m. CDT, Zeta carried top winds of 70 mph. It was centered over the Gulf of Mexico, about 390 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 435 miles south of New Orleans.
Zeta, the 27th named storm of one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, made landfall late Monday just north of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. It weakened to a tropical storm over land but was expected to regain hurricane strength with winds of up to 85 mph as it moved over the Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday.
“Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are expected along portions of the northern Gulf Coast by late Wednesday, and storm surge and hurricane warnings are in effect,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Residents in the watch areas should follow any advice given by local officials.”
Where is Jim Cantore right now? Tracking Tropical Storm Zeta from Gulfport, Mississippi
A hurricane warning extends from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans, the Hurricane Center said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared an emergency ahead of the storm. And commercial fishermen began a familiar hurricane preparation ritual.
“We’re getting pretty good at it for doing it five times this season so far,” said Robert Campo as he readied his marina at Shell Beach for the storm.
Already this year, Louisiana has been hit by two tropical storms and two hurricanes: Laura, blamed for at least 27 Louisiana deaths after it struck in August, and Delta, which exacerbated Laura’s damage in the same area weeks later.
Near where Zeta is expected to make landfall as early as Wednesday afternoon, strong wind gusts will threaten to bring down trees and power lines, AccuWeather said. Isolated tornadoes will also be a threat in the Southeast during the second half of the week.
Between Tuesday night and Thursday, as Zeta approaches and makes landfall, heavy rain is also expected from portions of the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, the Hurricane Center warned.
This rainfall will likely lead to flooding.
In addition, a combination of Zeta and a separate storm are forecast to combine forces and bring the northeastern United States drenching rain and perhaps even accumulating snow by the end of the week, AccuWeather said.
With Zeta still drenching the northern Yucatan region of Mexico, Quintana Roo state Gov. Carlos Joaquín warned late Monday that “nobody should be on the streets … you shouldn’t go out anymore” until the storm passed.
In Playa del Carmen, between Tulum and Cancun, Mexican tourist Elsa Márquez held up her beach towel Monday so it flapped in the wind, rattling with the strong gusts Monday a few hours before Zeta’s arrival.
“This is our first experience (in a hurricane) and the truth is we are a little afraid because we don’t know what will happen, but here we are,” said Márquez, who was visiting the resort from the north-central state of Queretaro.
Zeta broke the record for the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005. It’s also the 11th hurricane of the season. An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms.
There have been so many storms this season that the hurricane center had to turn to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names.
Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone. There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became an “unnamed named storm.”
Hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.
Contributing: The Associated Press