(WXXV) — As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, Air Force and NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft observations indicate that Hurricane Zeta has strengthened and now has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph with higher gusts.
Some additional strengthening is forecast this morning. Zeta is now expected to make landfall in Southeast Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane this evening before moving over South Mississippi tonight.
The storm is moving quickly to the north at 17 mph. A faster northward to north-northeastward motion is expected to begin later this morning.
On the forecast track, the center of Zeta will approach the northern Gulf Coast this morning and make landfall in southeastern Louisiana this afternoon. Zeta will move close to the Mississippi coast this evening, and move across the southeastern and eastern United States on Thursday.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.
STORM SURGE: Along the northern Gulf Coast, the combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.
- Mouth of the Pearl River to Dauphin Island, AL — 6-9 feet
- Port Fourchon, LA to the Mouth of the Pearl River, including Lake Borgne — 5-7 feet
- Dauphin Island, AL to AL/FL border — 3-5 feet
- Mobile Bay — 4-6 feet
- Mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Port Fourchon, LA — 3-5 feet
- Lake Pontchartrain — 3-5 feet
- AL/FL border to Navarre, FL including Pensacola Bay — 2-4 feet
- Intracoastal City LA to the Mouth of the Atchafalaya River, including Vermilion Bay — 1-3 feet
- Navarre, FL to Yankeetown, FL, including Choctawhatchee Bay and Saint Andrew Bay — 1-3 feet
WIND: Hurricane conditions are expected within the Hurricane Warning area on the northern Gulf Coast this afternoon, with tropical storm conditions beginning later this morning.
Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, expect wind gusts of 80-100 mph tonight, mainly between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Damaging winds, especially in gusts, will spread well inland across portions of southeast Mississippi and southern and central Alabama this evening and overnight.
RAINFALL: The core of heavy rains near Zeta will track from the central Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic this afternoon through Thursday evening. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches with isolated amounts of 6 inches are expected across these areas, resulting in flash, urban, small stream, and minor river flooding.
TORNADOES: A few tornadoes are expected this afternoon through tonight over southeastern parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, southern Alabama, and the western Panhandle of Florida.
WARNINGS IN EFFECT:
- A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from the Mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre, Florida, including Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Pensacola Bay and Mobile Bay.
- A Hurricane Warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans.
- A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border to Walton/Bay County Line Florida.