Tropical Storm Zeta has formed in the Western Caribbean and will be becoming a hurricane by late Monday or early Tuesday, once it enters the southern Gulf of Mexico. Its latest track has shifted a tad bit west as the storm moves slowly at 2 miles per hour with 60 mile per hour winds.
Potential impacts anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle are a possibility by late Tuesday or Wednesday. Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watches will likely be issued tomorrow for parts of Louisiana & the northern Gulf Coast. These are issued 48 hours ahead of the onset of tropical storm force winds.
Overall, this system does not look like a huge issue, as it will be moving fast and most likely weakening while moving north.
However, our chance for tropical storm impacts is growing. At the least, expect localized heavy rain plus increased tides along and east of where Zeta’s center comes ashore. Right now, the main threats locally across our New Orleans viewing area are tropical storm or even hurricane conditions plus 2-5 inches in rain. Coastal flooding along and east of where its center comes ashore and surge are concerns, as well.
Conditions appear marginal for modest strengthening into a strong tropical storm or Category one hurricane in the southern Gulf. The key with this is dry air and wind shear. Slightly cooler water temperatures in the northern Gulf look to be inhibitors for intensification as the system moves northward into the northern Gulf.
Right now, most guidance weakens the system to a moderate or strong tropical storm intensity as it nears the northern Gulf Coast. As far as its structure, Zeta looks to be a lopsided system weighted heavily on the eastern side.
An approaching cold front’s timing in conjunction with this system’s strength will dictate its path. If the front moves faster, Zeta will take a more northeast path towards the eastern Gulf Coast in either the Alabama or Florida Panhandle. If the front moves slower, Zeta will take a path towards southeast Louisiana or southern Mississippi.
A stronger system would favor a slightly more eastern path in the end before Zeta makes landfall. Remember, in this situation, 50 miles will make a huge difference for southeast Louisiana. If Zeta goes 50 miles East, our impacts will be fairly minimal in southeast Louisiana.
This is Louisiana’s seventh time to be included in the cone of uncertainty during Hurricane Season 2020. It only takes one storm, so do not let your guard down.
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