Zeta rapidly strengthened overnight on its approach to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is expected to be the season’s eighth landfalling tropical storm or hurricane on the U.S. Gulf coast this week.
The National Hurricane Center said Zeta had top sustained winds of 70 mph as of its mid-morning advisory on Monday. It is moving toward the northwest near 9 mph. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where Zeta is expected to make its first landfall late Monday evening. 4 to 8 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, and 1 to 3 feet of storm surge are expected near and to the north of where the center makes landfall on the Yucatan, the Hurricane Center said.
Zeta is expected to emerge in the southern Gulf of Mexico some time Tuesday morning, where it should regain any strength that it loses over its brief path over the Yucatan. 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.
Computer model simulations are in somewhat better agreement Monday than they were over the weekend regarding Zeta’s future path. A strong ridge of high pressure over Florida will guide Zeta northward through the Gulf before the approach of an upper trough from the mid-latitudes erodes the ridge and causes Zeta to curve more toward the northeast. Nearly all reliable models predict landfall between Louisiana and the far western edge of the Florida Panhandle some time on Wednesday. The greatest risk of storm surge, localized flooding, and tropical storm force winds are in those areas, with the first arrival of sustained tropical storm winds most likely Wednesday afternoon or evening. Isolated tornadoes are possible, especially Wednesday evening into Thursday morning into the Florida Panhandle.
Conditions are likely to improve somewhat along the Gulf coast on Thursday as the storm moves inland. However, heavy rain, isolated tornadoes, and flooding may accompany a weakening Zeta during the day on Thursday in the Carolinas. Residents there are also encouraged to monitor forecasts later this week as the storm’s path and affects become more certain.
Tropical Storm Zeta is forecast to become a hurricane in The Gulf of Mexico and make landfall on the Northern Gulf Coast Wednesday. Moisture from Zeta's remnants is forecast to impact The Midlands and CSRA Wednesday Night through Thursday with showers and thunderstorms. pic.twitter.com/ArHlmMevCA— NWS Columbia (@NWSColumbia) October 25, 2020
After Zeta moves into the Atlantic on Friday, there are some signals for another tropical system in the western Caribbean during the first week of November. It is far too soon to predict what effects, if any, that potential system would have on the U.S.