Zeta expected to be Category 2 at landfall
By ALAN SMASON
After six near misses from previous named hurricanes or tropical storms this very long hurricane season, New Orleans appears to be in the crosshairs of a direct hit by a better organized Hurricane Zeta, which strengthened overnight from a tropical storm to a hurricane.
Forecasters altered their predictions for both the intensity and the predicted path of the storm early Wednesday. The expected spot where the storm will make landfall has shifted significantly to the west, threatening the Greater New Orleans area with the highest sustained winds it will have seen since the passage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Terrebonne Bay is now predicted as the likely spot where the center of Hurricane Zeta will make landfall as a Category 2 storm. The fast-moving system is tracking north at 17 m.p.h.,, but will shift to the northeast as it approaches the coastline. Authorities predict the first tropical force winds and rain bands will begin to come ashore and affect the city by as early as noon today, but landfall should be around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m.
While the potential for heavy rains of 3-4 inches remains a possibility, the likeliest damage from a fast-moving Hurricane Zeta will be from downed power lines and trees and wind damage to area structures. Entergy and CLECO officials predict power could be out for much of the area’s residents for a minimum of 24- 48 hours.
Dangerous surge from the storm is also expected to move onshore as the system moves closer with the Misssissippi Gulf Coast expecting 6-9 feet high levels.