The fast-moving Zeta has weakened and turned into a tropical storm as it heads northeast after wreaking havoc along the coast.
At least three deaths have been reported so far after a Category 2 storm made landfall on the southeastern coast of Louisiana. One person was electrocuted after touching a collapsed power line in New Orleans, and another was killed when a large tree uprooted and fell across the corner of a motorhome in Acworth, Georgia.
Officials in the Gulf Coast made repeated calls on Wednesday night for residents to stay inside after the storm had passed and not go out in the dark to assess the damage.
In Waveland, Mississippi, Mayor Mike Smith told local media that he had expected to see a lot of damage in the morning. In Louisiana, Louisiana Governor John Bill Edwards is expected Thursday to tour coastal areas hardest hit by the storm.
Zeta is moving northeast at 39 miles per hour. It brings gale winds and heavy rain to the southeast on Thursday. As of 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was 65 miles west of northwest Atlanta with sustained winds of 60 mph.
The storm is expected to pass through North Carolina and into Virginia from about 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. The entire system must move to the sea.
The bulk of the remaining rain from Zeta will fall in the mountains of North Carolina – Tennessee as well as in Blacksburg and Roanoke, Virginia.
Hurricane Zeta hit a storm-battered Louisiana with New Orleans directly on its way, pelting homes and businesses with rain and gusty winds, knocking out power to thousands and threatening to push up to 9 feet of seawater inland in the Gulf Coast region. Already hit by multiple storms this year.
Roads near the coast are inundated, as meteorologists said Zeta made landfall around Terrebone Bay near Cocodrie, an unincorporated fishing village at the end of a highway that has a marine laboratory but few if any full-time residents.
Streams of rain littered the rooftops of the iconic French Quarter in New Orleans, signs swayed outside bars and restaurants back and forth in the wind, palm trees flogged along Canal Street fiercely. Some trees fell, and a fallen tree across the utility lines sparked a bright orange flash.
More than 100,000 customers were without electricity in Louisiana, including more than 77,000 in Metro New Orleans.
Zita was experiencing maximum winds of 110 mph as a Category 2 hurricane and was the 27th storm in the historically busy Atlantic hurricane season – with more than a month left before it was over. It set a new record as the eleventh storm that made landfall in the continental United States in one season, after the nine storms that struck in 1916.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued in as far away as the mountains of North Georgia, which is very unusual for the region. New Orleans has been in warning areas of six previous storms that veered east or west this season. This time, Zeta stayed on course.
It was expected to hit Zeta as a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane, but Louisiana residents have woken up to updated forecasts that predicted Category 2 would make landfall around the southeastern part of the state.
“The good news for us – and look, it takes good news where you can find it – the forward velocity of the storm is 17 mph. This is expected to increase, so it will enter and exit the area relatively quickly, after which Governor John Bill Edwards said in an interview with The Weather Channel, “We’ll be able to assess the damage more quickly.”
Officials urged people to take precautions and prepare to take shelter in his place, and the business atmosphere dwindled as usual in the morning in New Orleans as the storm approached and intensified. Traffic slowed and restaurants and cafes closed.
“This year, the storms are back and forth. They avoided New Orleans but decided to come at the end,” said Curt Broomfield, a cake shop worker, as he stores empty boxes in litter boxes outside. Before the storm arrived.
Wind picked up and water rose over the piers in Jean Lafitte, a small fishing town south of New Orleans that took its name from a French pirate. Workers hauled truck loads of sand to low-lying areas where thousands of sandbags had already been stacked for previous storms.
Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. said: “We’re going to have a lot of water quickly. I’m optimistic about the high tides due to the speed of the storm, but we’re not going to take it for granted.” “
Wind, rain, and storms reached Zeta more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) east of New Orleans. In Mississippi, Biloxi streetlights wobble and Bass Christian has ordered all boats to leave the harbor. Dauphine Island, Alabama, has shut down its water and sewage service in areas usually inundated by storms.