Briefing: Issued Wednesday, October 28th, 2020:
Zeta Strengthening. Zeta has been strengthening through the overnight hours, and as of 7 AM CT, Zeta had sustained winds of 90 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend out up to 35 miles from the center with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward to 150 miles. The center of Zeta was located about 265 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, or about 295 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, and moving north at 17 mph.
Landfall Expected Later Today. Zeta will continue to move to the north and north-northwest with an increase in forward speed today. This will bring the center of Zeta into the northern Gulf of Mexico this morning with landfall along the southeastern Louisiana coast late this afternoon or early this evening. After crossing over southeastern Louisiana, it’ll be close to the Mississippi coast later this evening and quickly move across the southeastern and eastern United States Thursday. Some additional strengthening is expected this morning, with Zeta expected to reach a peak strength of 100 mph (Category 2 hurricane) early this afternoon. After this point, we should see the strength level-off or slightly come down in the hours before landfall due to cooler waters and stronger winds aloft. However, Zeta should still be a hurricane as it approaches the Gulf Coast. Weakening will occur as it moves over land tonight into Thursday. However, given the faster forward speed of Zeta later today, we should see strong winds spreading far inland later today and tonight.
Hurricane And Tropical Storm Warnings. We continue to see Hurricane Warnings as well as Tropical Storm Watches and Warning across the central Gulf Coast stretching up to northwestern Georgia. Hurricane Warnings include New Orleans, Gulfport, and Biloxi. Tropical Storm Warnings include Hattiesburg, Meridian, Mobile, Enterprise, and Pensacola. Tropical Storm Watches include Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Atlanta. Along the coast, these watches and warnings are in place in the following locations:
Hurricane Warning: Morgan City, LA to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans
Tropical Storm Warning: Mississippi/Alabama border to Walton/Bay County Line, FL
Tropical Storm Watch: West of Morgan City to Intracoastal City, LA.
Peak Winds. The strongest winds with Zeta are expected across portions of southeastern Louisiana, particuarly in areas near where the landfall occurs, and across southern Mississippi. In these areas, wind gusts could top 80 mph. However, hurricane-force wind gusts (74+ mph) will be possible into portions of southern Alabama. Tropical-storm-force wind gusts are possible up into the Atlanta metro as we head toward early Thursday morning and across portions of the Carolinas Thursday.
Boothville, LA, Forecast Wind Gusts. Boothville will be near where landfall could occur later today, and around that landfall late this afternoon they could see wind gusts over 80 mph. You can see the winds quickly hit and then decrease below tropical storm force by late this evening – this is thanks to the quicker forward speed expected.
Storm Surge Concerns. A life-threatening storm surge – where normally dry areas near the coast flood due to water rushing inland – is expected with Zeta, especially if the surge of water occurs around high tide. Due to the stronger nature of Zeta around landfall, these storm surge values have increased since yesterday. The highest forecasted storm surge right now is from the mouth of the Pearl River to Dauphin Island, AL, where a peak surge of 6 to 9 feet is possible. Storm Surge Warnings are in place from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre, FL, including Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Pensacola Bay, and Mobile Bay.
Heavy Rain Threat. Heavy rain of at least 2-4”, with isolated 6” amounts, can be expected from the central Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic over the next couple of days. Some of the initial heavy rain today ahead of Zeta will move from the central Gulf Coast today to the Ohio Valley and Appalachians tonight and Thursday. That’ll be followed by the core of heavy rain with Zeta tracking from the central Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic later today through Thursday. Flood Watches are in place from southeastern Louisiana to southern Virginia.
Tornado Threat. Landfalling tropical systems can also produce a tornado threat, and due to that a Slight Risk of severe weather is in place across portions of the central Gulf Coast.
Southern U.S. Snow/Ice Storm
Ice And Snow. One more day of snow and ice is expected across the southern United States today, with Ice Storm Warnings continuing through 1 PM and Winter Storm Warnings into the evening hours. In areas under Ice Storm Warnings, additional ice accumulations up to around two tenths of an inch will be possible.
Ice And Snow Potential. Up to around two tenths or a quarter of an inch of ice will be possible in areas of the Southern Plains today, with some of the heaviest ice possible across western Oklahoma. Several inches of snow will be possible in northeastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.
Fires Out West
Silverado And Blue Ridge Fires. Extreme fire conditions continued across the western United States yesterday, with growth on both the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires. Evacuations remain in place due to both fires. Get the latest on the:
Fire Outlook Today. The good news is that no Fire Weather Warnings or Wind Advisories/High Wind Warnings are in place today as we see weaker winds across the region. However, winds of 15-25 mph along with low humidity values across portions of southern California, eastern Nevada, and southwestern Utah could still allow for fire spread across the region.
D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.
California Wildfires Force Tens of Thousands to Evacuate Orange County Amid Strong Winds. Here’s an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: “...Winds are still expected to cause rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior, though they’re not as strong as they were on Monday, when a gust to 96 mph was measured in Los Angeles County and gusts up to 88 mph buffeted areas near Fremont Canyon. Ontario Airport saw a gust to 70 mph, and had to shut down due to the severe crosswinds. This week’s extreme winds brought the most dangerous conditions the Los Angeles area has seen since October 2019, National Weather Service forecasters said. To raise awareness about the threat, the Weather Service office in Los Angeles called Monday’s fire weather a “Particularly Dangerous Situation” (PDS) — a label it reserves for rare events that combine wind gusts greater than 60 mph with single-digit humidity and highly flammable vegetation...”
Living in Harm’s Way: Why Most Flood Risk Is Not Disclosed. NPR has a troubling story; here’s a clip: “…But no one told the Obbinks they were moving into harm’s way, because no one was obligated to: not their real estate agent, not the seller, not the inspector. Or any government agency, or the real estate website that listed the property. A growing body of research suggests that the lack of transparency and growing flood risk due to climate change are leading millions of Americans to put their safety and their financial futures in jeopardy. About 15 million properties have significant risk of flooding, according to recent estimates that take into account climate-driven weather. Yet studies in multiple states have found that most people living in harm’s way did not understand their home’s flood risk until after they purchased it…”
The Town That Built Back Green. It can be done, and we’ll see more of this in the years to come as communities attempt to become more storm-proof and resilient. Here’s a clip from a Washington Post article: “…A wind-swept farming community in southwestern Kansas, Greensburg rebuilt “green” after an EF5 tornado — the most violent — barreled through at more than 200 miles per hour and nearly wiped it off the map in 2007. A decade later, Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting…”
Photo credits: “LEFT: Main and Grant streets the day after an EF5 tornado tore through Greensburg on May 4, 2007, destroying about 95 percent of the community. RIGHT: Main and Grant streets in August 2008.”