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Hurricane Zeta Breaches Louisiana Levee; Nearly 875,000 Without Power; One Death Reported | The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel logoThe Weather Channel 10/29/2020 Jan Wesner Childs and Ron Brackett

Hurricane Zeta ripped off roofs, knocked down power lines and trees and flooded streets as it came ashore in Louisiana on Wednesday evening and moved over New Orleans.

As the hurricane moved farther inland, trees and power lines fell in Mississippi and Alabama. Storm surge flooded communities along the northern Gulf Coast. Cars in a parking garage at a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, floated like toys in the surge.

One death was reported Wednesday night. New Orleans Emergency Medical Services tweeted that it was responding to a fatal high-voltage electrocution on Palm Street about 8 p.m. CDT. The Associated Press reported that the coroner confirmed a 55-year-old man had been electrocuted by downed power lines.

More than 556,000 homes and businesses were without power across Southeast Louisiana as of about 9 p.m. CDT, according to poweroutage.us. Another 177,000 customers in Mississippi and 125,000 in Alabama had no electricity. Florida was reporting more than 13,000 outages.

The storm made landfall about 4 p.m. CDT near Cocodrie in Terrebonne Parish and moved over New Orleans with howling winds and driving rain.

(FORECAST: Tropical Storm Conditions Expected Well Inland)

One person was taken to the hospital after a roof collapsed on a building in New Orleans, The Advocate reported. The lights went out on Bourbon Street.

Video on WDSU from Grand Isle, a barrier island in Jefferson Parish, showed large homes with their roofs torn off, a crumpled gas station canopy and downed utility poles and wires.

"We're really getting beat. We're looking at wind over 100 (mph) for sure," Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle said in an interview with WDSU as Zeta's eyewall moved over the island.

The Jefferson Parish government posted a image on Twitter showing three breaches in Grand Isle's levee, known as the "burrito levee" because it's a large roll of plastic filled with sand. The levee was severely damaged by Cristobal at the beginning of the hurricane season and work continued through the summer to shore it up.

In St. Bernard Parish, the Chalmette Ferry broke free from its mooring and was lodged under a dock at Chalmette Refining, WDSU reported.

"Zeta gave us a good punch," Parish President Guy McInnis told the station. "We were experiencing 120 mph gusts in the lower end of the parish and 90 to 105 in the upper end of the parish."

“We have multiple reports of people in distress with their roofs being blown off,” McInnis said. “We’re going to get out there as soon as we can.”

Terrebonne Parish officials said they had received several reports of downed power lines and utility poles.

"Please stay home and off roadways and highways until first responders can assess road conditions," the parish emergency management office said in a Facebook post.

The Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, just to the east of where Zeta came ashore, said similar reports were coming in there. Public Information Officer Brennan Matherne shared video from the sheriff that showed a large boat washed on to a highway.

Four or five buildings collapsed in the southern part of the parish, Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson told WDSU. He said a wind gust to 136 mph was recorded by an anemometer on a boat in the parish.

A video from Plaquemines Parish showed debris from a destroyed mobile home blowing across a road. The Sheriff's Office said it had received numerous reports of down trees, power lines and utility poles throughout the parish.

Video from the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's office showed wind and heavy rainfall.

Schools were closed in New Orleans Wednesday and will remain shuttered on Thursday. Several other parishes also closed schools, as did districts in Mississippi and Alabama. In some cases, learning shifted to virtual models put in place as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

(MORE: Zeta's Projected Path, Model Tracks and More)

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told residents they should be hunkered down and ready to ride out the storm.

"Public safety officials are sheltered in place in the City of NOLA Emergency Operations Center," Cantrell said on Twitter at about 2 p.m. CDT. "You should be sheltered too!"

Communities far inland were also bracing for the impacts of Zeta. More than two dozen school districts in Georgia canceled in-person and/or online classes for Thursday, including several around metro Atlanta, WSB-TV reported. The storm was expected to move through into early Thursday morning.

Earlier in the day, shelters opened, rescue crews were standing by and officials ordered evacuations for storm-weary residents.

"I’m worried about the power outages and the poles actually coming down on our only highway," Grand Isle Police Chief Scooter Resweber told weather.com in a phone call Wednesday morning. "If we have any kind of emergency, we can’t get to them with our emergency vehicles. The people who are here are going to be on their own if the poles start to come down."

The tiny barrier island town, about two hours south of New Orleans, is under a mandatory evacuation order. Resweber estimated about 80% of residents had left.

(MORE: Hurricane Zeta Evacuations in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi)

It's the fifth time Grand Isle has been told to evacuate during this record-breaking hurricane season. Coastal Louisiana has been in the forecast cone of seven tropical systems, and four have made landfall in the state.

"There’s a little storm fatigue that I detected this morning," St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann said in a news briefing. "I was getting a cup of coffee and a young lady had said 'Here we go again, I can’t believe they’re closing the coffee house and I’m not going to be able to work all day.'"

Pohlmann added: "Although we had a pass on a few of these storms … this storm is going to be a serious event. You’re going to have significant trees down, power lines down and it’s going to create a lot of dangerous situations."

Besides Grand Isle, mandatory evacuations are also in effect for parts of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Voluntary evacuations are being advised in several communities from Louisiana into Alabama, where tourists and visitors to Gulf Shores were asked to leave ahead of the storm.

Emergency crews, the National Guard and first responders were standing by if needed. High water vehicles and boats were readied in New Orleans, where officials said they were expecting rain, high winds and possible tornadoes. Residents were advised to be off the streets by 2 p.m.

Widespread power outages were also expected from the storm.

St. Bernard Parish Fire Chief Tommy Stone reminded residents to follow generator safety rules in the event of power outages. At least nine people in Louisiana died from carbon monoxide poisoning while using generators after Hurricane Laura in August.

"If you’re using a home generator, please make sure the generator is outside and at least 20 feet away from any opening," Stone said in a parish news briefing.

In the Florida Panhandle, officials in at least three counties announced early voting locations would close early on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. While the region isn't expecting a direct hit, Zeta will bring deteriorating conditions to the area. Counties affected by the early closures include Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa.

Early voting has already ended in Louisiana.

Hurricanes Delta, Laura and Marco, as well as Tropical Storm Cristobal, also hit Louisiana this year. Laura was especially devastating, flattening homes and businesses along the coast and inland to Lake Charles. Some 3,600 residents still have not returned home and are being sheltered in hotels, according to the AP.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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