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Zeta Barrels N.E. After Hitting LA     10/29 06:33


   NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A fast-moving Zeta weakened to a tropical storm as it 
barreled northeast Thursday morning after ripping through Louisiana and 
Mississippi where storm-weary residents were advised to stay indoors overnight 
while officials assessed the havoc the storm had wrought.

   The storm raged onshore Wednesday afternoon in the small village of Cocodrie 
in Louisiana as a strong Category 2 and then moved swiftly across the New 
Orleans area and into neighboring Mississippi, bringing with it both fierce 
winds and storm surge. There was heavy rain at times but since the storm was so 
fast-moving, rain related flooding wasn't as much of a concern.

   Zeta weakened over central Alabama but its strong winds continued across 
portions of the state and the Florida Panhandle. The storm was about 65 miles 
(104 kilometers) west northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, with maximum sustained 
winds of 60 mph (96 kph). Zeta is moving quickly toward the northeast at 39 mph 
(62 kph).

   The storm killed at least one person, 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.

   Before dawn Thursday, about 1.8 million customers across Louisiana, 
Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were without power, according to the website

   Waveland Mayor Mike Smith told WLOX-TV that his Mississippi Gulf Coast city, 
which was part of the area most heavily damaged by 2005's Hurricane Katrina has 
maybe taken the worst hit since then from Zeta.

   "We're going to see a whole lot of damage in the morning," Smith said. Among 
the many trees blown down was one that fell on Smith's own house. "It was my 
next-door neighbor's and he wanted to give it to me, apparently," Smith said.

   In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards was expected Thursday to tour the 
coastal regions hardest hit by the storm. During a radio interview Wednesday 
evening, Edwards said the wind had caused extensive structural damage. And as 
neighbors and church groups started reaching out to help those affected, he 
also highlighted the need to protect against the coronavirus at the same time.

   "Offer the help but do it with a mask on," he said.

   Much of New Orleans and the surrounding area was without power Wednesday 
night. The storm packed a punch as it whipped through the city. 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.

   More than 200 trees were reported down in the city. Echoing a plea made by 
officials across the Gulf Coast in the dark hours after the storm passed, New 
Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell implored residents to stay home and let city 
officials assess the damage.

   "Although we have made it through, we have been damaged, we have been hit," 
she said.

   Along coastal Louisiana, there were reports of some trailers flipped over, a 
gas station destroyed, and downed power lines and trees.

   Zeta had top sustained winds of 110 mph (177 kph) as a Category 2 hurricane 
at landfall and is the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic 
hurricane season --- with over a month left to go. It set a new record as the 
11th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. in a single season, 
well beyond the nine storms that hit in 1916.

   Zeta weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 90 mph (144 kph) as it 
moved into southern Mississippi a few hours after landfall.

   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.

   In the small coastal town of Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, former mayor Les 
Fillingame said the storm was "very intense" when it blew through.

   "It was a noisy storm. It was a truly howling wind," he said, but said 
thankfully it was also fast-moving. "It was a lot of wind for several hours 
which is enough."

   Tropical storm warnings were issued as far away as southern Virginia, highly 
unusual for the region. Forecasters issued a string of tornado warnings for as 
far east as the Florida Panhandle. And Atlanta, Georgia, was under a tropical 
storm warning for the second time ever. Its first warning was in 2017 when 
Hurricane Irma roared into Florida as a deadly Category 4 storm.

   New Orleans was in the warning areas of six previous storms that veered east 
or west this season. This time, Zeta stayed on course. Officials had been 
worried about the loss of a power from a turbine that helps power the city's 
aging drainage infrastructure and whether that would leave the city vulnerable 
to flooding but Zeta's swift movement meant flooding wasn't an issue.

   On Tuesday, Zeta raked across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, toppling trees and 
briefly cutting power to more than 300,000 people but causing no deaths.

   It then regained strength over the Gulf of Mexico along a path slightly to 
the east of those of Hurricane Laura, which was blamed for at least 27 deaths 
in Louisiana in August, and Hurricane Delta, which exacerbated Laura's damage 
in the same area weeks later.

   The deteriorating weather prompted early voting sites to close for hours in 
the western Florida Panhandle. One voter in Mississippi worried about how long 
felled trees and debris might block roads.

   "With the election I just kind of hope the city gets the roads clear by 
November 3rd so everybody can get out and vote," said Mackenzie Umanzor, of 
D'Iberville, Mississippi.

   An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms. This 
extraordinarily busy season has focused attention on climate change, which 
scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

   And the fact that so many of the storms have been concentrated in such a 
small piece of Gulf Coast real estate has meant repeated damage for some 
places. On Dauphin Island, Alabama, Mayor Jeff Collier said residents and 
workers had nearly finished cleaning up from Hurricane Sally when the wind 
started blowing and the water started rising yet again.

   "This is going to put his back to square one again," Collier said.

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