Hurricane Zeta To Hammer Yucatan Peninsula Before Threatening Florida Panhandle
Zeta could be the eighth tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf coast this season.
The northern Gulf Coast could be the target of another hurricane later this week as Hurricane Zeta lurks near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula before making an expected turn to the north.
Portions of the Yucatan Peninsula are under a Hurricane Warning as Zeta could make landfall there late Monday night.
The National Hurricane Center upgraded Zeta to a Category 1 hurricane just after 3 p.m.
Zeta was located about 120 miles southeast of Cozumel and moving northwest at 10 mph, according to the hurricane center. Maximum sustained winds were 80 mph with higher gusts.
Forecasters say Zeta will continue moving northwest before turning toward the north on Tuesday night, and then race north-northeast on Wednesday and approach the northern Gulf Coast.
Zeta is on track to be the eighth tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast this season.
Dr. Athena Masson, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, says Zeta is expected to turn northward toward the northern Gulf coast by midweek.
"Zeta is expected to impact the northern Gulf coast sometime Wednesday afternoon becoming the eleventh cyclone of the season to impact the United States," Masson said. "Zeta is forecast to be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the Gulf coast, and there is an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, heavy rain, and wind from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
Masson says tropical storm-force wind gusts could arrive in the western Florida Panhandle late Wednesday. Storm surge, flooding, and isolated tornadoes are also possible over the Panhandle on Wednesday and into Wednesday night before the system moves into the Mid-Atlantic states on Thursday.
Water temperatures and light to moderate wind shear are forecast in the southern Gulf and should be favorable for maintaining a hurricane through at least Tuesday.
Several cold fronts have already penetrated the shelf waters of the northern Gulf this fall season, so water temperatures are a bit cooler closer to the coast.
Increasing wind shear and somewhat cooler water may lead to some weakening as Zeta approaches the northern Gulf coast later Wednesday; however, the storm is most likely to be a strong tropical storm or category 1 hurricane at landfall.
Portions of the Yucatan can expect 4-8 inches, with isolated totals of 12 inches, according to the hurricane center. South Florida and the Keys could experience 5 inches over the next two days, along with dangerous storm surge.
Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. This is only topped by 2005, which had 28 named storms.
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and NPR was used in this report.