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 hits Louisiana with flooding, power outages

Hurricane Zeta hits Louisiana with flooding, power outages

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Zeta slammed into storm-weary Louisiana on Wednesday, pelting the New Orleans metro area with rain and howling winds that ripped apart buildings, knocked out power to thousands and threatened to push up to 9 feet of sea water inland in a Gulf Coast region already pounded by multiple storms this year.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis said emergency workers were doing their best to respond to reports of people in distress after their roofs were blown off.

“Guys, we received the brunt of Zeta, and Zeta gave us a good punch,” McInnis told WDSU-TV.

Roads were flooded near the coast, where forecasters said Zeta made landfall around Terrebone Bay near Cocodrie, an unincorporated fishing village at the end of a highway with few if any full-time residents and a marine laboratory where a building was inundated.

Streams of rainfall ran off roofs in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, signs outside bars and restaurants swayed back and forth in the wind and palm trees along Canal Street whipped furiously. A few trees were down, and one that fell across utility lines sparked a bright orange flash. Officials said a person was hospitalized with minor injuries after a structure collapsed, but further details weren’t available.

Nearly 400,000 customers were without electricity in Louisiana and Mississippi, including more than 280,000 in metro New Orleans. More outages were feared overnight as the storm moves northeastward across the Deep South.

Zeta had top sustained winds of 110 mph (177 kph) as a Category 2 hurricane and was the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic hurricane season — with over a month left before it ends. It set a new record as the 11th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. in a single season, well beyond the nine storms that hit in 1916.

Winds decreased slightly to 100 mph a few hours after landfall, but forecasters said remained a life-threatening storm.

Tropical storm warnings were issued as far away as the north Georgia mountains, highly unusual for the region. Forecasters issued a string of tornado warnings for as far east as the Florida Panhandle.

New Orleans was in the warning areas of six previous storms that veered east or west this season. This time, Zeta stayed on course.

“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.

Officials urged people to take precautions and prepare to shelter in place, and a business-as-usual atmosphere in the morning in New Orleans diminished as the storm neared and grew stronger. Traffic slowed, and restaurants and coffee shops shut down.

“This year, the storms have been coming back-to-back. They’ve been avoiding New Orleans but finally decided to come,” cookie shop worker Curt Brumfield said as he stowed empty boxes in trash cans outside and others boarded up the windows ahead of the storm’s arrival.

Winds picked up and water rose above the docks in Jean Lafitte, a small fishing town south of New Orleans that takes its name from a French pirate. Workers drove truckloads of sand to low-lying areas where thousands of sandbags were already stacked for previous storms.

“We’re going to get a lot of water fast,” said the mayor, Tim Kerner Jr. “I’m optimistic regarding the tidal surge because of the speed of the storm, but we’re not going to take it for granted.”

Zeta’s wind, rain and storm surge reached more than 150 miles (241 kilometres) east of New Orleans. In Mississippi, streetlights swayed in Biloxi and the city of Pass Christian ordered all boats out of the harbour. Dauphin Island, Alabama, shut off water and sewer service in areas that typically are swamped in storms.

New Orleans officials announced that a turbine that generates power to the city’s aging drainage pump system broke down 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.

Forecasts called for anywhere from 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 centimetres) of rain to fall in the New Orleans area.

Before landfall, Zeta’s top winds had risen to just shy of a major, Category 3 storm, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

On Tuesday, Zeta raked across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, toppling trees and briefly cutting power to more than 300,000 people but causing no deaths.

It then regained strength over the Gulf of Mexico along a path slightly to the east of those of Hurricane Laura, which was blamed for at least 27 deaths in Louisiana in August, and Hurricane Delta, which exacerbated Laura’s damage in the same area weeks later.

“I’m physically and mentally tired,” a distraught Yolanda Lockett of Lake Charles, one of about 3,600 evacuees from Laura and Delta still sheltering, said outside her New Orleans hotel.

The deteriorating weather prompted early voting sites to close for hours in the western Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Mississippi state line, including Lake Pontchartrain and metropolitan New Orleans.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for a large swath of the South, from Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama and Georgia, including all of the Atlanta area, where winds could gust up to 55 mph (89 kph) early Thursday. Winds could be “especially severe” in the southern Appalachian Mountains, where flash flooding is possible, the hurricane centre said.

Large school systems in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina planned to close Thursday or open late.

An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms. This extraordinarily busy season has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

After Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally and Delta, Zeta will tie a record set in 1886 and repeated in 1985 for six hurricanes smacking the continental U.S., according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

___

Plaisance reported from Laffite, Louisiana, and Santana from Shell Beach, Louisiana. Associated Press contributors include Gerald Herbert in New Orleans; Jay Reeves, in Birmingham, Alabama; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; and Gabriel Alcocer in Cancun, Mexico.

Kevin McGill, Stacey Plaisance And Rebecca Santana, The Associated Press

hurricane

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Street musicians play outside Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Businesses that were boarded up for previous hurricanes this season remain open this time as Hurricane Zeta approaches, expected to make landfall as a category 2 hurricane in the afternoon. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Tourists walk on the beach as the tail end of Hurricane Zeta makes landfall in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, early Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Zeta is leaving Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could hit New Orleans Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)

Boats that were moved inland for protection are stacked up in the Violet Canal in Violet, La., Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall in the afternoon as a category 2 storm. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, at 1 p.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Zeta in the Gulf of Mexico nearing Louisiana. (NOAA via AP)

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Family members and friends wait to welcome home the crew aboard HMCS Ottawa following its four-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific region as it returns to CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. Newly released documents are shedding light on the secret discussions between Canada's top diplomatic and defence officials around the Ottawa's passage through a sensitive strait near China last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Top officials weighed Canadian warship’s passage through sensitive strait near China

OTTAWA — Newly released documents have shed light on the secret government… Continue reading

Willowbrook Shopping Centre is still expected to one of the most popular last-minute shopping destinations in Langley, as the countdown to Christmas continues. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Black Friday, the one-day shopping bonanza known for its big bargains and… Continue reading

Head coach Jason Chatwood, left, sports one of the Sylvan Lake Gulls’ first on-field hats next to Aqil Samuel, general manager and president of baseball operations, earlier this year.
Sylvan Lake Gulls ticket sales off to flying start

With the inaugural season quickly closing in, the Sylvan Lake Gulls hit… Continue reading

Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s chief medical health officer publicly criticizes staffer who leaked info

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, dealing with rocketing COVID-19… Continue reading

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Keegan Messing performs during the Men's Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won't be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships – if they happen

Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships - if they happen

A piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater, seen in an undated handout photo, hitting the auction block. The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Lelands Auction, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Mighty Heart is breezed by exercise rider Des McMahon, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Woodbine Entertainment says it has officially cancelled the rest of its thoroughbred racing season following discussions with the Ontario government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

Most Read