Tropical Storm Zeta is “rapidly strengthening” and is likely to become a hurricane as it makes its way toward the US Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.
Zeta already has sustained winds of 70 mph as it barrels toward Mexico’s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula — where many are still getting aid after Hurricane Delta and Tropical Storm Gamma earlier this month. It is forecast to make landfall in the US mid-week.
Officials in Quintana Roo state have set up 71 shelters for almost 60,000 tourists in Cancun and other popular resorts. BP also said it has begun to evacuate four offshore US Gulf of Mexico oil platforms.
Zeta is expected to hit late Monday, and could bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba, the NHC said.
It will then likely be “at or near hurricane strength” when it reaches the US Gulf Coast around Wednesday, the meteorologists predicted.
“There is an increasing risk of storm surge, rainfall and wind impacts from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle,” the NHC warned in an update at 5 a.m. Monday.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged his state’s citizens to monitor the storm while the state activated its Crisis Action Team.
Zeta threatens an area already battered in a historic storm season — with so many that the hurricane center has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.
It is the earliest a 27th Atlantic named storm has hit, with the previous record being one that formed Nov. 29 in 2005, Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said.
With Post wires
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