The Coast Guard has all but closed Louisiana ports as Hurricane Zeta closes in on the Gulf Coast.
The ports of Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Plaquemines, South Louisiana, St. Bernard and the Venice Port Complex are under port condition Zulu, as are several smaller ports. This severely limits vessel movement within and around these ports, impacting ship-to-shore operations.
Under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act, the captain of the port (COTP) at each location may close portions of the port in response to any changes in Zeta’s forecast track and/or intensity.
Tropical Storm Zeta became the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season Sunday. It became a hurricane for a brief time Monday as it moved through the western Caribbean, weakening back to a tropical storm as it began crossing the Yucatán Peninsula Monday night.
Zeta returned to Category 1 hurricane strength Tuesday night as it began crossing the Gulf of Mexico. As of 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday, sustained winds were 85 mph, and the eye of the hurricane was about 300 miles southwest of New Orleans, heading that direction.
Zeta will make landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana, Wednesday afternoon or early evening, likely as a Category 1 storm. The impact zone will stretch from southeastern Louisiana, including the New Orleans metropolitan area, eastward to Gulfport, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.
Heavy rainfall and 5 to 10 feet of storm surge will cause flash flooding in coastal areas of the impact zone, as well as some inland areas. Power outages are likely as winds knock down trees and utility lines. Drivers who don’t avoid the region will probably run into delays on the Interstate 10 corridor, in addition to several U.S. and state highways.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued hurricane warnings and storm surge warnings across the expected impact zone.
Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared states of emergency.
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness “has already started assisting our local partners with critical items like pumps, generators and food and water for first responders,” Edwards said. “We stand ready to expand that assistance as needed. Everyone should be monitoring the news for information and should heed any direction they get from their local leaders.”
Ivey added, “While this storm is not expected to have an impact as large as storms we’ve seen move through the Gulf earlier this year, we want to be in the best place possible to respond to anticipated rain, storm surge and mass power outage.”
Zeta is the 11th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Only two other Atlantic seasons on record (since 1851) have had 11 or more hurricanes by Oct. 26: 1950 and 2005. Also, Zeta will become the sixth hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. this season, tying with 1886 and 1985 for the most continental U.S. landfalling hurricanes in a single Atlantic season on record.