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Hurricane Zeta nears the coast as a strong hurricane

Hurricane Zeta will make landfall as a strong cat 2 hurricane on the southeast coast of Louisiana within the next hour or so. The storm is just shy of being considered a cat 3 “major” hurricane. The winds of a cat 3 begin at 111 mph.

Zeta surprisingly intensified this afternoon, despite lackluster water temperatures and increasing wind shear. It is likely the storm system over the southern plains aided in the intensification. We’ve seen that unique interaction with other storms before. The National Hurricane Center does a great job forecasting where a hurricane will go, but there’s still work to do with forecasting intensity.

According to meteorologist Craig Reece, “There has never been a major hurricane landfall this late in the season in the contiguous US. The latest on record is October 25, 1921 (Tampa Bay, FL). The latest west of Florida on the Gulf Coast was October 12, 1886 near the TX-LA border.” It looks like Zeta will prevent that record from being broken, by a mere one mph.

The satellite imagery below shows lightning in the eyewall of Hurricane Zeta. While lightning activity is often rather rare in a hurricane, it is often present when a storm is rapidly intensifying.

Thankfully, the storm will stay just south of our area. That will keep the heaviest rain and strongest winds to our south, though we will still see breezy conditions tonight and tomorrow. Contrast that with Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina where strong winds will lead to widespread power outages tonight and tomorrow. Be thankful we’re missing out on that!

Still, we should see 2-3 inches of total rainfall across the plateau, with isolated higher amounts possible. Our winds could gust to 20 mph overnight and in the morning hours of Thursday.

Pictured below is the radar at 4:00 pm. I circled the eye on the hurricane and underlined New Orleans. The Crescent City will take a direct hit from Zeta.

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