- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2020

Zeta weakened to a post-tropical cyclone as it swept northeastward across Southern states Thursday after hitting Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane, killing at least three people and leaving millions without electricity.

Despite its loss in strength, the storm carried dangerous winds and potential flooding to areas along its path, forecasters warned.

Zeta was downgraded early Thursday over central Alabama after making landfall Wednesday evening in Cocodrie, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. The storm traveled across North Carolina with winds at 40 mph Thursday morning and weakened into a post-tropical cyclone about 50 miles outside Richmond, Virginia, by 2 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center said the remnants of Zeta would travel northeast and move off the Atlantic coastline by Thursday evening. The cyclone was expected to strengthen over the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds near 50 mph before being “absorbed by a frontal system” by Friday evening, the center said.

Hurricane Zeta caused at least three deaths in the U.S. A 55-year-old man died from the electric shock of a downed power line in New Orleans on Wednesday night. Georgia authorities said a man was killed when high winds blew over a tree that struck his mobile home in Cherokee County. Officials in Biloxi, Mississippi, said Thursday that a 58-year-old man who visited a marina Wednesday evening drowned from ocean water pushed ashore by Zeta.

About 2.2 million households and businesses experienced power outages in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and other parts of the South on Thursday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us. Most of those outages were in Georgia, where more than 851,000 customers were without electricity.

Many customers in New Orleans, about 85 miles northeast of Cocodrie, and other portions of Louisiana were left in the dark Wednesday night. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday morning that 469,000 homes and businesses were without power as a result of Zeta, which he described as a “primary wind event” that knocked down trees and utility poles.

Winds uprooted more than 200 trees and whipped signs outside of bars and restaurants in New Orleans, The Associated Press reported. A person was hospitalized with minor injuries after a structure collapsed, officials said. Other reports said a gas station was destroyed, some trailers were flipped over and power lines and trees were downed along coastal Louisiana.

Rainfall in Louisiana was limited because of high wind speeds, and flooding came mostly from coastal surges, Mr. Edwards said. Noting the death of the Louisiana man from electric shock, the governor urged residents to take the threat of downed power lines seriously.

Due to Zeta, drive-thru coronavirus testing sites staffed by the Louisiana National Guard were closed Thursday in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Acadiana and the Northshore. More than 1,900 state National Guardsmen were activated for rescue operations, route clearance and delivery of generators and other supplies.

In Mobile, Alabama, wind gusts of 60 to 64 mph were reported late Wednesday. A National Ocean Service station at the Bayou Batre Bridge reported an inundation of 6.61 feet.

Zeta was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane as it traveled into southern Mississippi with sustained winds of 80 mph.

In addition to the fatality, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported multiple injuries in Harrison County. Numerous counties reported debris on roads, downed power lines and damage to multiple homes. The emergency management agency tweeted a picture Thursday morning of a boat pushed by winds onto Highway 90.

President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Gov. Tate Reeves‘ request for federal assistance for multiple Mississippi counties that sustained damage from Zeta. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards received approval for federal assistance earlier this week.

Zeta is the 11th hurricane of the season and the earliest 27th Atlantic named storm, breaking the previous record for the storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005. An average season has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes. Hurricane season lasts through the end of November.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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