Hurricane Zeta made landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana, on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 2 storm, lashing the coast with 110 mph winds, according to officials. Forecasters said the hurricane was hitting the Gulf Coast with a life-threatening storm surge and strong winds. Power was knocked out for tens of thousands of homes and businesses across Louisiana as it quickly approached southeastern Mississippi.
Zeta — the fifth named storm to slam the region this year — battered southeastern Louisiana, downing power lines and trees. The storm was moving at a rapid clip, the National Hurricane Center said. Zeta's center was forecast to move from southeastern Louisiana into southeastern Mississippi, then across the southeastern and eastern U.S.
Forecasters warned residents to stay indoors: "Don't venture outside when the calm eye of the hurricane passes over, as dangerous winds will return very quickly when the eye moves away." The hurricane center added: "Stronger winds, especially in gusts, are likely on high rise buildings."
Zeta "moving rapidly" through Mississippi and Alabama
Hurricane Zeta was "moving rapidly" through Mississippi and Alabama on Wednesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was weakening as it moved inland, but still brought hurricane force winds with it.
As of 11 p.m. ET the storm was located 45 miles northeast of Hattiesburg, Mississippi with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Zeta was moving northeast at 31 mph.
The NHC also warned that damaging will "spread well inland across portions of southeastern Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia" through Thursday morning.
New Orleans mayor urges residents not to try to assess damage
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell at a press conference Wednesday night urged residents not to try to asses any damage from Hurricane Zeta and instead leave that to officials. Cantrell said one person was killed when they touched a downed wire that was still live.
"We do not want to lose another life," the mayor stressed. "It's unnecessary."
Director of New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Collin Arnold said there was no significant flooding in the city as Zeta moved through. He said the city got about 2.5 inches of rain.
Track Hurricane Zeta as it moves inland
The Associated Press is tracking Hurricane Zeta's path and forecasted track as it moves across the U.S. Gulf Coast:
Half a million people without power in Louisiana
Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks outages across the country, is reporting more than 500,000 customers are without power late Wednesday as Hurricane Zeta made landfall in the region earlier Wednesday.
The storm hit southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, just shy of the threshold that would make it a major Category 3 storm.
New Orleans reports damage from Hurricane Zeta
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.
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," Governor John Bel Edwards said in an interview on The Weather Channel.
These photos tweeted by CBS affiliate KHOU-TV reporter show damage to an apartment complex:
Videos emerge of Hurricane Zeta's destruction
Videos and pictures posted online show the extent of Hurricane Zeta's destructive storm path. Downed trees and power lines are a top issue in Louisiana on Wednesday night.
Zeta marks 5th time a storm strikes Louisiana this year
More than 30 million Americans were in the path of Hurricane Zeta on Wednesday night. It slammed into Louisiana at 110 mph — the fifth time that's happened this year. Zeta was only 1 mph from a Category 3 storm. Louisiana had already been hit by two tropical storms and two hurricanes earlier this year.
On Bourbon Street, it was a virtual ghost town ahead of Zeta. Fierce winds were wreaking havoc in Grand Isle where residents were under mandatory evacuation orders. Heavy rainfall was flooding streets.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told residents not to give into storm fatigue: "This is not a drill. We've had many of them. It's not a drill. We do expect directly impacting the city of New Orleans."
Pictures posted online show downed power lines and trees, like this one in the Metairie area in Louisiana:
Danya Bacchus contributed reporting.
Major power outages reported in Louisiana
Entergy, the power utility in Louisiana, is reporting more than 300,000 outages as of 7:30 p.m. ET as Hurricane Zeta sweeps over the state. Here were the totals across various parishes Wednesday night:
- Jefferson Parish: 141,156 customers
- Orleans Parish: 100,863 customers
- Terrebonne Parish: 14,766 customers
- St. Bernard Parish: 13,793 customers
- Lafourche Parish: 10,936 customers
- St. Charles Parish: 10,645 customers
- Plaquemines Parish: 9,139 customers
See more from Entergy.
The latest mandatory and voluntary evacuations in Louisiana
Officials have alerted residents of the following parishes to prepare ahead of Zeta. Here's a breakdown of parishes under evacuation.
- Jefferson Parish
- Hancock County
- Lafourche Parish (mandatory and voluntary)
- Terrebonne Parish (mandatory and voluntary)
- Plaquemines Parish
- Orleans Parish
For more a full list of evacuation orders, read more at WWL-TV.
Georgia anticipating wind gusts of 45-70 mph
As Hurricane Zeta slams Louisiana as a strong Category 2 hurricane, weather officials in Atlanta are warning residents of sustained winds of 25-40 mph, with peak gusts between 45-70 mph late Wednesday.
Officials also said to beware of any downed trees or power lines. They also said flash flooding may occur.
Forecasters warn New Orleans residents to stay indoors
The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday warned residents to stay indoors as the storm's eyewall approached New Orleans.
Don't venture outside when the calm eye of the hurricane passes over, as dangerous winds will return very quickly when the eye moves away," the hurricane center said. "Stronger winds, especially in gusts, are likely on high rise buildings."
Forecasters said there was a reported wind gust of 52 mph in Houma, Louisiana, and one 53 mph gust reported at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Northern eyewall of Hurricane Zeta captured on video
The Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana shared dramatic video on Twitter as Hurricane Zeta made landfall in the area.
Officials have said the biggest concern with Zeta is the high winds, but also said that the storm is moving fast, which means it won't linger and dump huge amounts of rain.
Louisiana warns of massive power outages
Louisiana's city emergency director Collin Arnold said residents can expect "widespread power outages" in the aftermath of Hurricane Zeta. Arnold also said in a phone interview with CBS affiliate WWL-TV that the window of time has passed for residents to evacuate.
Arnold urged residents to dial 911 if they need help escaping an area that is in the storm's path.
Over 3,600 Louisiana residents still being sheltered
Over 3,600 Louisiana residents are still in shelters ahead of Hurricane Zeta, according to Governor John Bel Edwards. Zeta, which will mark Louisiana's third landfall hurricane in two months, has already prompted evacuation orders for multiple parishes in New Orleans.
Zeta is expected to be a "primarily wind event," according to Edwards, but more than 1,500 Louisiana national guard members are still activated and prepared to respond in case of flooding and aggressive storm surge.
"It's going to be a rough evening for Louisiana, particularly in the southeastern portion," said Edwards in a Wednesday press conference. "I am confident we are well prepared for this storm."
Gulf Coast energy companies bracing for Zeta
Two-thirds of off-shore oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has been shut down ahead of Hurricane Zeta, Reuters news agency reported. Undersea pipelines were turned off and workers have evacuated as well.
BP, Chevron, Shell and Murphy Oil Corp. were among the companies that told workers from 157 facilities to return to shore, Reuters reported. This is the sixth time since June that oil companies have had to pull staff from their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
One onshore gas processing plant in Louisiana removed its workers Tuesday, according to Reuters, while two other Louisiana oil-processing facilities have been sidelined by storms earlier this year.
Zeta hit Mexico with damaging winds, causing power outages
Hurricane Zeta raked across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, toppling trees and briefly cutting power to more than 300,000 people, but causing no deaths, before it strengthened again along a path slightly east of Hurricane Laura, which was blamed for at least 27 Louisiana deaths after it struck in August, and Hurricane Delta, which exacerbated Laura's damage in the same area just weeks later.
International Space Station video shows size of Zeta
The International Space Station orbited above Hurricane Zeta on Wednesday and shared a video of the storm as it churned in the Gulf of Mexico.
Warnings in effect
Here are the latest warnings in effect, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Storm surge warning:
- The mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre, Florida
- Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Pensacola Bay and Mobile Bay
- Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border
- Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Metropolitan New Orleans
Tropical storm warning:
- Mississippi-Alabama border to Walton-Bay County Line Florida
Zeta is the 27th named system of the 2020 season
Zeta is the 27thof the 2020 season, which is running over a month ahead of the record pace set back in 2005. That year featured 28 tropical storms, and the last did not form until the end of December. That puts 2020 well on track to either tie or break the all-time record for the number of named storms in the Atlantic in one season.
In the Atlantic Ocean, the chance that any given storm will reach(Category 3, 4, or 5) is now twice as likely than it was in the 1980s, showing just how influential warmer ocean waters can be.
Residents in Louisiana's Grand Isle ordered to evacuate
A mandatory evacuation order was issued Tuesday for Louisiana's Grand Isle. The state's only inhabited barrier island is on track to be one of the hardest-hit locations from Hurricane Zeta. According to town officials, the difference between disaster and manageable damage lies at the feet of the town's levee. The $1 million, 1,500-foot bayside levee just completed construction, as its previous interaction was heavily damaged during June's Tropical Storm Cristobal.
While some residents have evacuated, others have decided to wait out the storms, and the levee, in their own homes. "We're staying this time," resident Connie Synder told CBS affiliate WAFB. "We'll see, well, hopefully, we won't see."
According to Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, the storm has officials expecting upwards of six feet of storm surge, which could top the levee with the right conditions. A mile of Grand Isle's beachfront is lined with sandbags, and the island has 15 pumps and generators ready to distribute, but the mayor is still working with officials to extend the levee further back, which would take additional funds.
"Zeta is coming in fast," said Camardelle. "It's the seventh cone and it's right on top of us."
Trump approves emergency aid for Louisiana
President Trump on Tuesday approved emergency aid for Louisiana, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in areas affected by the hurricane.
On Monday, Edwards declared a state of emergency in order to prepare for the hurricane, calling on local governments to request aid as residents prepare to either hunker down or evacuate.
"I am incredibly hopeful that President Trump will quickly approve my request for a federal emergency declaration, as he has done before," said Edwards in a press conference. "We are already coordinating with our federal partners to respond to Zeta, as we have been since the start of the COVID pandemic and throughout the recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. Louisianans along the coast and in the tracking cone should be making their final preparations today as Zeta will likely impact parts of the state tomorrow."