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Hurricane Zeta Aims at Gulf   10/28 12:27

   Hurricane Zeta was speeding toward storm-weary Louisiana and intensifying, 
with landfall expected as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday afternoon. New 
Orleans, where a pump system failure raised flood risks, was squarely in its 
way.

   NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Hurricane Zeta was speeding toward storm-weary Louisiana 
and intensifying, with landfall expected as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday 
afternoon. New Orleans, where a pump system failure raised flood risks, was 
squarely in its way.

   Workers closed one of the last floodgates surrounding New Orleans as 
residents braced for the 27th named storm of a historically busy Atlantic 
hurricane season. Tropical storm warnings were issued as far as the north 
Georgia mountains, highly unusual for the region.

   Louisiana has had the worst of it, hit by two tropical storms and two 
hurricanes. New Orleans has been in the warning area for potential tropical 
cyclones seven times this year, each one veering to the east or west.

   "I don't think we're going to be as lucky with this one," city emergency 
director Collin Arnold said.

   Zeta had been predicted to hit as a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane, 
but Louisiana residents awoke to updated forecasts predicting a Category 2, 
with top winds of nearly 100 mph (160 kph) at landfall.

   "The good news for us -- and look, you take good news where you can find it 
-- the storm's forward speed is 17 mph. That's projected to increase, and so 
it's going to get in and out of the area relatively quickly, and then we're 
going to be able to assess the damage more quickly," Gov. John Bel Edwards said 
in an interview on The Weather Channel.

   Officials urged people to take precautions and prepare to shelter in place, 
but there were few signs of concern in New Orleans. It was business as usual in 
the French Quarter. "This one is moving fast and I don't think it's going to do 
much," said Kelly Ann, a visitor from St. Petersburg, Florida, as she strolled 
Decatur Street.

   South of New Orleans, winds picked up and water rose above the docks in 
Lafitte, a small community that takes its name from a French pirate. Workers 
drove truckloads of sand to low-lying areas where thousands of sandbags were 
already stacked along bayous before previous storms.

   New Orleans officials announced that a turbine that generates power to the 
city's aging drainage pump system broke down on Sunday, with no quick repair in 
sight. There was enough power to keep the pumps operating if needed, but little 
excess power to tap if other turbines fail, officials said at a news conference 
with Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

   Officials said they were running through contingencies to provide power and 
make repairs where needed should there be other equipment problems. Forecasts 
called for anywhere from 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 centimeters) of rain to fall in 
the New Orleans area, but Zeta is expected to be a relatively fast-moving 
storm, possibly mitigating the flood threat.

   Zeta raked across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday, toppling trees and 
briefly cutting power to more than 300,000 people but causing no deaths, before 
strengthening again along a path slightly east of Hurricane Laura, which was 
blamed for at least 27 Louisiana deaths after it struck in August, and 
Hurricane Delta, which exacerbated Laura's damage in the same area just weeks 
later.

   By late Wednesday morning, Zeta's top winds had grown to 90 mph (150 kph) 
and its forward movement increased to 18 mph (28 kph) as its center moved 
north, about 235 miles (380 kilometers) south of New Orleans.

   Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana to the 
Alabama/Mississippi state line, including Lake Pontchartrain and metropolitan 
New Orleans. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the western Florida 
Panhandle, forcing early-voting sites to close for hours in three counties 
where Republicans dominate.

   Tropical storm warnings covered a large swath of the South, from Louisiana 
and Mississippi into Alabama and Georgia, including all of the Atlanta area, 
where winds could gust up to 55 mph (89 kph) early Thursday. Winds could be 
"especially severe" in the southern Appalachian Mountains, where flash flooding 
is possible, the hurricane center said.

   Edwards asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration ahead of the 
storm. He and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey both declared emergencies, as did Mayor 
Andrew "FoFo" Gilich in Biloxi, Mississippi. Trump declared an emergency for 
Louisiana Tuesday evening.

   An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms. This 
extraordinarily busy season has focused attention on climate change, which 
scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

   "I'm physically and mentally tired," a distraught Yolanda Lockett of Lake 
Charles said outside her New Orleans hotel. She's one of about 3,600 evacuees 
from Laura and Delta still sheltering.

   In coastal St. Bernard Parish, Robert Campo readied his marina for another 
onslaught. "We're down for four or five days, that's four or five days nobody's 
fishing. That's four or five days nobody is shrimping. That's four or five 
days, no economic wheels are turning," he said.

   Zeta is poised to set a new record of most U.S. landfalls in a year for 
named storms, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil 
Klotzbach.

   Zeta will be the sixth hurricane smacking the continental United States, 
tying a record set in 1886 and repeated in 1985. Already Hurricanes Hanna, 
Isaias, Laura, Sally and Delta have made landfall this year. It will be the 
11th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S., breaking the record 
2020 already set this year. The old record of nine was set in 1916.

   Zeta also is the strongest hurricane this far west in the Gulf of Mexico 
this late in the calendar year, Klotzbach said.

 
 
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