Weary Gulf Coast residents are bracing for another potential hurricane strike on Wednesday, as Tropical Storm Zeta drenches Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula today and steers directly toward the Gulf of Mexico, where warmer than usual water temperatures are expected to recharge the storm’s energy as it rumbles toward New Orleans.
Federal meteorologists have issued a hurricane warning for the coastline between Morgan City, Louisiana, and the Mississippi/Alabama border, a region that includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. If Zeta wallops Louisiana as a hurricane by Wednesday night as forecasts predict, it would then proceed to move inland across the southeastern U.S., bringing damaging winds and urban flooding into into the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic areas through Thursday.
The threat of the storm has already prompted Gulf of Mexico oil producers to evacuate workers and halt production from many coastal and offshore facilities, at least the sixth time they have done so this year. That could cause energy prices to rise, because those companies have now shut 16% of the nation’s oil production and 6% of natural gas output.
The impact would represent another hammer blow in a relentless 2020 storm season that has already delivered damage from hurricanes Delta, Sally, and Laura, all arriving in quick succession during September and October. Zeta would become the 27th named storm of the tumultuous 2020 Atlantic hurricane season—breaking the 2005 record for the earliest such event—and would be the 11th full-fledged hurricane of the season. An average season sees just six hurricanes and 12 named storms, according to published reports.
Regardless of Zeta’s category, it arrives as the same time that disaster experts are laying plans to cope with enhanced fire risks in California by instituting power outages through rolling blackouts, and to deal with a major winter storm that is now dropping 6 to 10 inches of snow and ice across the U.S. southwest and southern plains states, according to a threat analysis webcast by Riskpulse, a Texas-based supply chain risk analytics company.
According to Riskpulse, this latest hurricane is likely to trigger the Port of New Orleans to close on Wednesday and Thursday, but as of today the port’s most recent storm update stated that cargo operations were continuing as officials monitor Hurricane Zeta’s path. In addition to that major hub, 22 smaller ports scattered along the Louisiana and Alabama coasts are likely to close as well, the firm said. Additional closures could include half a dozen intermodal shipping hubs and portions of the interstate highways 10, 12, 55, 59, and 65.
In preparation to stage a recovery from those impacts, the humanitarian disaster relief group American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) is thanking companies in many corners of the logistics community for the in-kind donations they have already made this year of space, services, equipment, and transportation. Those deeds have ranged from deliveries of donated pet food to animal welfare centers to face shields shipped to medical facilities, and gifts of packing boxes, refrigerated trailer space, transportation of personal protective equipment (PPE), and an electronic pallet jack, ALAN Executive Director Kathy Fulton said in a blog post.
#Zeta could produce flash flooding across portions of the Deep South and then across portions of the Mid-Atlantic through Friday morning. @NWSWPC is forecasting 2-4" of rain with isolated areas of 6" near portions of the central Gulf coast.https://t.co/hRJDsnIXZi pic.twitter.com/6eOU2lH1Sp— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) October 27, 2020
We’re holding good thoughts for the people of the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Zeta moves north. If you live in Zeta’s path, make sure you’re heeding all local advisories – and making as many storm preparations as possible. pic.twitter.com/edu4EeNWz9— ALANAid (@ALANaid) October 27, 2020
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