Hurricane Zeta is the last storm of a busy season for the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Zeta, a powerful storm that regained Category 1 strength Wednesday morning, swirled over the Gulf of Mexico on its way to southeast Louisiana, where it was believed to bring heavy rain and destructive winds in a state that has been repeatedly crushed by hurricanes this season. .
If the forecast holds, Zeta will be the fifth named storm to hit the state this year with about a month into hurricane season. The previous record of four was set in 2002, said Philip Klotzbach, a researcher at Colorado State University.
As of Wednesday morning, Zeta was 235 miles southwest of New Orleans and life-threatening storm surges and high winds were forecast to blow across southeast Louisiana by noon. The storm was moving at 18 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Further reinforcement was planned.
A hurricane warning was in effect Wednesday morning for part of the coast from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border and to the New Orleans metro area.
The storm is expected to make landfall in southeast Louisiana later Wednesday, then move through the southeast and eastern United States on Thursday, dumping up to six inches of rain in places.
Residents of New Orleans received a text from the city on Wednesday morning warning them that Zeta was likely a Category 2 hurricane by the time it made landfall – and urging them to complete preparations for the storm and be sheltered at inside at 2 p.m.
LaToya Cantrell, the mayor, warned via Twitter that the storm could also cause tornadoes.
“We are very concerned about the storm surge and flooding along the southeast coast of Louisiana and Alabama,” said Robbie Berg, hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Winds on the east side of the storm will push water out of the ocean toward the shore. We could see water levels this high at nine feet. “
The time left for residents to prepare is running out, he said. “We need residents, if they haven’t been evacuated and told to do so, they need to complete those evacuations,” Berg said. “If they are staying at home, they must prepare their homes for potentially strong and damaging winds. We think it will be a pretty severe storm.
Zeta, which hit Mexico’s northern Yucatán Peninsula Monday and Tuesday, is the 11th hurricane and 27th named storm in such a busy Atlantic hurricane season that forecasters have scoured the alphabet of names and are now working through Greek letters.
The northern Gulf Coast region has been strained by repeated storms – Cristobal in June, Laura and Marco in August, Sally and Beta in September, and Delta this month. Yet before making landfall, the storms veered east or west, scraping New Orleans with just a glance.
Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared a state of emergency and said on Tuesday evening that President Trump had approved the state’s request for a federal declaration of emergency. “While we don’t know exactly what #Zeta will bring, we do know that it will be a big help in the recovery process for communities that will feel“ the impact of the storm, ”he said.
While some residents jumped into action, preparing their property and preparing for whatever the storm might bring, others did not appear to be in distress.
“I’m done with that, really,” said Glen David Andrews, a trombonist, during a break from a concert at the Café du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He didn’t intend to put in much effort to prepare for the storm. “I’m going to charge my devices,” he says, “then sit down to take advantage of the wind as this 24-hour storm blows through town.”
In Plaquemines Parish, located directly on the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of New Orleans, Byron Encalade said he couldn’t afford to be a rider in the face of hurricanes. “Any storm I care,” said Mr. Encalade, 66, who recalled weathering storms as a child at the parish courthouse.
Because Louisiana sits at a crucial crossroads in the Mississippi Flyway, which stretches from the Arctic to South America, late-season hurricanes can delay or cause detours for birds that move in. are heading to warmer climates.
In other words, Zeta can be bad news for wildlife.
As the hurricane blows through the Gulf of Mexico, it could strike herds of small warblers, vireos and indigo buntings, which are all set to cross the water this time of year, Erik Johnson said, director of bird conservation at Audubon in Louisiana. .
“A storm could be devastating for a migratory songbird that feeds just enough to cross the Gulf,” Mr Johnson said, noting that some herds could also delay take-off for a few more days in places like the Barataria Preserve in Louisiana, where migratory birds stop to eat hackberry and seeds before taking off for South America.
There are also other wildlife issues. In some national park wildlife areas, storm surge waters can temporarily push alligators closer to trails and buildings. “Once the alligators get home, we open again,” noted Dave Barak, a park ranger at the National Parks.
The storm hit Mexico earlier this week.
Zeta brought torrential rains when it hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula on Monday evening. It was a Category 1 hurricane at the time, and it was downgraded to a tropical storm on Tuesday morning.
The storm had caused power outages in at least two Mexican states and pushed sand on the roads. The storm’s waves were so large that destroyed turtle eggs were found on Playa Ballenas.
Part of this year’s devastation has been attributed to climate change, which has made hurricanes wetter and slower. But climatologists said the series of storms in Louisiana could also be blamed on sheer bad luck.
“It’s kind of like flipping a coin and having heads five times in a row – it happens,” said James P. Kossin, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, adding that “it’s not that surprising” given the size of the Gulf and the randomness of weather factors.
Along the Gulf Coast, hurricane veterans tend to tackle Category 1 storms with great strides. There was also the added benefit that late-season storms, like Zeta, typically move much faster than an early-season storm that can stall for 10 to 12 hours, overwhelming areas with wind and rain. .
And in New Orleans, there are fears that low-level hurricanes could be more damaging than expected. Even the weakest hurricanes can cause hardship or at least annoyance, as wind and rain destroy electricity and damage buildings.
Any heavy rain in the city is worrisome because of the city’s drainage system, a series of pumps that drain the city’s water in a bowl-shaped shape using electricity supplied in part by century-old turbines. On Sunday, the city’s Wastewater and Water Authority reported that Turbine 4, one of the largest systems, “unexpectedly went offline,” which raised concerns that the water from lower areas of the city would be pumped more slowly.
Reporting was contributed by Maria cramer, Christina morales, Katy Reckdahl, Rick rojas, John Schwartz and Derrick Bryson Taylor.