Hurricane Zeta was poised to crash into Louisiana on Wednesday with a “life-threatening storm surge” and winds that will reach far inland, the state’s sixth lashing this year from a Gulf Coast storm.
Zeta was about 145 miles (235 km) from the mouth of the Mississippi River on Wednesday and racing north at 20 miles (32 km) per hour. It packed sustained winds of 100 mph (155 kph) and could strengthen further before an afternoon landfall, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Zeta will hit the Louisiana coast and bring damaging winds “across portions of southeastern Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia,” said hurricane center forecaster Richard Pasch. Severe wind gusts could be felt across the southern Appalachian Mountains on Thursday, he said.
Zeta’s storm surge will reach up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River, in Mississippi. Rains of 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) are expected from Gulf Coast to the central Appalachians, the NHC said.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards urged residents to take shelter, saying New Orleans and the state’s southeast will experience damaging winds.
New Orleans halted city and transit services and advised residents living outside the state’s protective levee system to leave for higher ground. Coastal and low-lying communities along the state’s Gulf Coast called for mandatory evacuations.
Oil and gas producers have evacuated 231 offshore production facilities and shut wells producing two-thirds of the offshore region’s oil production and 45% of its natural gas output.
Louisiana and Alabama issued state emergency orders and the Trump administration declared an emergency that provides additional federal resources to Louisiana.
A Louisiana landfall would make Zeta the fifth named storm to directly strike the state this year after Cristobal, Marco, Laura and Delta. Tropical Storm Beta went ashore over the border in Texas, bringing winds and flooding rains.