Zeta will enter the Gulf of Mexico in the next few hours after making landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula, and then regain strength as he heads north towards Louisiana, likely landing on Wednesday.
Now a tropical storm again, Zeta & # 39; s winds dropped to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour as it drew closer to the warm waters of the Gulf. It could build to at least 85 mph in the next 24 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its forecast, making it a Category 1 hurricane capable of ripping shingles from roofs, tearing branches from trees and cutting power lines. to get.
"Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are expected along parts of the northern Gulf coast by late Wednesday," said Dan Brown, a meteorologist at the Hurricane Center. "Heavy rainfall is expected from parts of the central US Gulf Coast to the southern Appalachians and states near the mid-Atlantic Ocean between tonight and Thursday."
After the country arrives in the US, Zeta is expected to continue north, where it can join a winter storm over the Great Plains and pour flooding rains in the eastern US for the rest of the week.
Zeta is the 27th named storm in a supercharged Atlantic hurricane season, just one short of the record set in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. So many storms have formed this year that the hurricane center no longer has official names and uses Greek letters to denote systems.
Chevron Corp. and BHP Group are already drawing non-essential personnel from oil and gas platforms in the Gulf. Noble Corp. moved its Globetrotter II rig out of the way, while Equinor ASA plans to halt production on its Titan platform. According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, nearly 16% of oil production and 6% of natural gas is trapped in the Gulf.
The landfall will likely be south of Morgan City, Louisiana, late Wednesday, said Mike Doll, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. Winds and heavy rains are likely to reach east of New Orleans, producing a storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain of about 12 inches. (30 centimeters).
A storm surge, which occurs when a system pushes the ocean higher when it makes landfall, can inundate coastal areas from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. Hurricane-strong winds could affect a smaller area from Morgan City to the Alabama-Mississippi state line, the center said.
Vast parts of the eastern US will be hit by heavy rain, and the US Weather Forecast Center warned that it could drop as much as 5 to 7 inches in the next five days.
As Zeta makes landfall and travels through Mississippi, Alabama and North Georgia, it will interact with a winter storm that has brought snow to Texas and is now moving east as well, Doll said. The two storms will dump heavy rains from Oklahoma to New York City, and by then it won't matter which one is responsible for squeezing water out of the sky.
"Raindrops don't have a name," said Doll.
The US has been hit particularly hard this year, with hurricanes Isaias, Laura, Hanna, Sally and Delta all hammering the coastline and inflicting billions of dollars in damage. A handful of tropical storms have also hit the US. Zeta would be the record 11th storm to make landfall in the contiguous US this year, and if it makes landfall in Louisiana, it will be the fifth time to hit the state this season.
A typical Atlantic hurricane season only produces 12 storms. The six-month season will theoretically end on Nov. 30, but a number of storms formed before the official start date of June 1 this year, and some meteorologists think they could keep coming in December.
Environmental indications point to the possibility that a few more storms will develop in the Atlantic in November, pushing 2020 to surpass the 2005 record, said Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group.
& # 39; It's not over yet, & # 39; said Rouiller. "Zeta will not be the end."
–With the help of Sheela Tobben, David Wethe, Serene Cheong, Dan Murtaugh and Andrew Janes.
Photo of trees bending in the wind, taken by Richard Sheinwald / Bloomberg.
BP is evacuating personnel from 4 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Zeta intensifies
Copyright 2020 Bloomberg.
The most important insurance news, delivered to your inbox every working day.
Receive the trusted newsletter from the insurance industry