Tracking the Tropics: Hurricane Zeta reaches Category 2 strength as it gets closer to Gulf Coast landfall

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Conditions along the northern Gulf Coast started deteriorating on Wednesday as Hurricane Zeta made its way closer to the United States.

Zeta strengthened to become a Category 2 hurricane again Wednesday afternoon. It was a hurricane earlier in the week when it made landfall along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1 storm, but weakened to a tropical storm as it made its way over land.

By 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, Zeta was about 155 miles south-southwest of New Orleans and moving north at 20 mph. According to the NHC, Zeta strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. Some additional strengthening is possible in the hours before Zeta reaches the Gulf Coast.

The latest advisory from the NHC says Zeta is expected to make landfall in southeastern Louisiana Wednesday afternoon as a hurricane. It’s then forecast to move close to the Mississippi coast Wednesday evening before moving across the southeastern and eastern United States Thursday.

NHC forecasters are warning of life-threatening storm surge from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre, Florida.

“This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions,” the latest advisory said.

Damaging winds are also expected along parts of the coast and well inland across parts of southeastern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Georgia, the NHC says. Those winds are forecast to reach the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia on Thursday and, according to the NHC, could be “especially severe” across the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Several watches and warnings have been issued in the United States ahead of Zeta’s arrival.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre, Florida
  • Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Pensacola Bay and Mobile Bay

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Morgan City, Louisiana to the Mississippi/Alabama border
  • Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Metropolitan New Orleans

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Mississippi/Alabama border to Walton/Bay County Line Florida

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