Tropical Storm Zeta whips through Cancun and heads toward Gulf Coast
CANCUN, Mexico — Zeta has been downgraded back to Tropical Storm status but continues to pose a possible threat to south Louisiana.
As of 10 a.m., Tuesday, the storm has whipped through Cancun and is on track towards the Gulf coast, according to updates from the National Hurricane Center. Weather experts say Zeta is likely to weaken as it heads towards the state and make landfall, possibly on Wednesday evening.
On Monday evening, Louisiana's Governor, John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in advance of Zeta's landfall.
Shortly after this declaration, Edwards issued a statement regarding the storm, saying, "While there is some uncertainty in Zeta’s track, it is likely that Louisiana will see some impacts from this storm, and the people of our state need to take it seriously. It’s easy to let your guard down late in the hurricane season, but that would be a huge mistake.”
The Governor went on to say, “GOHSEP has already started assisting our local partners with critical items like pumps, generators and food and water for first responders. We stand ready to expand that assistance as needed. Everyone should be monitoring the news for information and should heed any direction they get from their local leaders.”
Edwards will address the public with another Zeta update Tuesday at 3 p.m., which WBRZ will air on both of its stations, WBRZ and WBRZ Plus.
Meanwhipe, the 27th named storm made landfall on the Caribbean coast of the eastern Yucatan Peninsula late Monday while whipping the resorts around Tulum with rain and wind.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Zeta came ashore just north of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph).
According to the Associated Press, Quintana Roo state Gov. Carlos Joaquín had warned that “nobody should be on the streets ... you shouldn’t go out anymore” until the hurricane passed.
The Associated Press spoke to a tourist named Elsa Márquez who found herself in Playa del Carmen, which is between Tulum and Cancun, mere few hours before Zeta’s arrival.
“This is our first experience (in a hurricane) and the truth is we are a little afraid because we don’t know what will happen, but here we are,” Márquez told reporters.
She was visiting the resort from the north-central state of Queretaro.
Another tourist, Mario Ortiz Rosas from the western state of Michoacan, looked at the rising waves, noting: “I didn’t plan for this, but it looks like it is going to get complicated.”
Some boats that normally carry tourists in Cancun took refuge in a nearby lagoon channel, anchored among the mangroves to avoid the battering wind, waves and storm surge. Boat captain Francisco Sosa Rosado noted they had to perform the same maneuver barely three week ago, when the area was hit by a stronger Hurricane Delta, which made landfall with top winds of 110 mph (175 kph).
“With Delta, the gusts of wind were very strong ... the anchor lines were at risk of breaking,” Sosa Rosado said. “I hope it won’t be as bad with this hurricane.”
Trees felled by Delta littered parts of Cancun, stacked along roadsides and in parks and there was concern they could become projectiles when Zeta blew through. A number of stoplights around the vacation destination remained unrepaired since Delta.
Quintana Roo state officials reported nearly 60,000 tourists in the state as of midweek. They said 71 shelters were readied for tourists or residents who might need them, though the governor said he hoped it would not be necessary to move guests out of their hotels.
Zeta broke the record for the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005. It’s also the 11th hurricane of the season. An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms.
There have been so many storms this season that the hurricane center had to turn to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names.
Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone. There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became an “unnamed named storm.”