MIAMI – Zeta, which on Wednesday made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category 2 hurricane, was downgraded to a post-tropical storm on Thursday as it moved over the southern US, killing at least five people and leaving more than two million people without electricity.
The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour and is moving rather rapidly, at some 89 kph (55 mph) east-northeast, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center in its latest storm advisory issued at 5:00 pm.
At that time, what had been the 11th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season was located 35 km west-southwest of Cape May, New Jersey and will soon move out over the waters of the western Atlantic, where on Friday it will be absorbed by a frontal system.
Zeta – which on Monday lashed Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where it made landfall as a Category 1 storm at the Tulum tourist resort – is still producing strong gusts and its tropical storm force winds extend out up to some 500 km southeast of its center, the NHC said.
After strengthening over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Zeta made landfall Wednesday at the town of Cocodrie, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 177 kph, just shy of a Category 3 hurricane, the threshold for which is 178 mph.
Louisiana authorities, as confirmed by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday, reported the first of the five deaths attributed to Zeta so far – a 55-year-old man who was electrocuted by downed electrical wires.
Zeta is the fifth named storm to hit Louisiana during the current storm season after Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Marco, the latter of which weakened shortly before hitting the Mississippi River delta region, and Tropical Storm Cristobal.
According to US media, on Thursday afternoon more than 2.1 million customers were without electricity in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Zeta is the 27th storm of the current Atlantic hurricane season, bearing the same name as a storm that formed in 2005, a year that also had an extremely active storm season.