On Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Zeta strengthened into a Category 2 storm packing 110-mph winds as it bore down on the Gulf Coast. The hurricane’s center was located 65 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, where a hurricane warning was in effect.
Zeta became the fifth named storm to hit the Louisiana coast during the season, and the 11th to strike the country as a whole — a national record. City officials in New Orleans called for residents who live outside the levee system to evacuate voluntarily as forecasts showed that Zeta’s eyewall could move right over the Big Easy.
In addition to New Orleans, hurricane warnings were in effect along the Gulf Coast from central Louisiana eastward to the Mississippi-Alabama border and tropical storm watches have been issued northward through Atlanta. Dangerous and damaging storm surge, high winds and flooding rainfall was predicted to hammer the area from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, and several tornadoes could also touch down as the Zeta batters the U.S. Gulf Coast, especially near and east of where the storm comes onshore.
Zeta is predicted to be the fifth tropical system to make landfall in Louisiana at tropical storm strength or greater following hits from Tropical Storm Cristobal, Hurricane Laura, Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Delta. Zeta became the 11th hurricane of the extremely busy Atlantic hurricane season over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Monday afternoon.