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Post Tropical Cyclone Zeta sprints to Northeast US, leaves 6 dead; 2nd system with high odds in Atlantic

Zeta, now a post-tropical cyclone, blew through the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States at a swift pace as it left behind millions of customers without power and at least six people dead. Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center has identified another system with low to high odds of development in the south Atlantic.

Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards said the state sustained “catastrophic” damage on Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, where Zeta punched three breaches in the levee. Edwards ordered the Louisiana National Guard to fly in soldiers to assist with search and rescue efforts and urged continued caution.

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“Oddly enough, it isn’t the storms that typically produce the most injuries and the fatalities. It’s the cleanup efforts. It’s the use of generators. It’s the carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s the electrocution that comes from power lines. So, now is the time to be very, very cautious out there,” Edwards said.

About 2 million customers in eight states are in the dark due to Zeta, according to PowerOutage.us.

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Zeta is forecast to regain strength Friday morning as the storm pulls away from the northeast U.S. coast and enters the Atlantic Ocean.

On Wednesday night, Zeta intensified into a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 mph shortly before making landfall in Louisiana, the NHC said. But the storm lost power as it cut into southern Mississippi and degenerated into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 mph.

Zeta is the 27th named storm of the record breaking 2020 hurricane season, which has the most storms recorded behind the 2005 season’s record 29. Zeta was not only the earliest 27th named storm on record, but also the 11th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. in a single season - the most ever recorded.

The storm brought dangerous winds and storm surge throughout the Gulf Coast Wednesday night.

A 91 mph wind gust blew through Mobile, Alabama, Tuesday and a NOAA gauge reported a 10-foot storm surge in Waveland, Mississippi, the Associated Press reported.

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. Officials said a person was hospitalized with minor injuries after a structure collapsed, but further details weren’t available.

With much of the city in the dark and more than 200 trees reported down, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell implored residents to stay home and let city officials assess the damage instead of going out and doing it themselves.

As much as 5 feet of Gulf water surrounded a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, and deputies in Harrison County, Mississippi, received multiple calls from people who had remained in mobile homes that were threatened by winds.

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The storm killed six people, including a 55-year-old man who a Louisiana coroner said was electrocuted by a downed power line in New Orleans, and officials said life-threatening conditions would last into Thursday in a region already pounded by multiple storms this year, AP reported.

Four people died in Alabama and Georgia when trees fell on homes, authorities said. They included two people who were left pinned to their bed, Gwinnett County fire officials said.

And in Biloxi, Mississippi, Leslie Richardson, 58, drowned when he was trapped in rising seawater after taking video of the raging storm. Richardson and another man exited a floating car and desperately clung to a tree before his strength “just gave out,” Harrison County coroner Brian Switzer said.

As of 8 p.m. there were over 400,000 Louisiana customers without power. However, it’s Georgia that has the most customers in the dark with 460,000 people, according to Poweroutage.us.

Crews from Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) and Duke Energy were deployed to affected states Wednesday to help restore power, according to a report by FOX 35.

Meanwhile a second system in the south Atlantic was identified with high odds of becoming the next tropical depression or tropical storm.

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The large area of disturbed weather is moving west into the Caribbean and toward the Lesser Antilles with a pair of tropical waves. Upper level winds should relent a bit creating an ideal environment for development over the weekend.

The system has a 30% chance of development in the next 48 hours and a 70% chance of doing so over the next five days.

If the system does develop into a tropical storm it will be the 28th named storm of the season, receiving the Greek letter Eta as its designation. It would also be the first time “Eta” was ever used to name a storm.

The last official day of hurricane season is Nov. 30.

The Associated Press and Orlando Sentinel staff writers David Harris and Paola Pérez contributed to this report.


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