Tropical Storm Zeta is expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it heads for a strike on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the northern U.S. Gulf Coast, where it’s likely to bring heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surge.
Zeta is centered in the northwest Caribbean right now and is moving northwestward toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 70 mph as of early Monday morning.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, from Tulum to Dzilam, including Cozumel and Cancún. Hurricane conditions are expected in this area Monday night into early Tuesday.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and for small areas west and south of the hurricane warning in Mexico.
Forecast Track, Intensity
Warm sea-surface temperatures and favorable upper-level winds should allow Zeta to become a hurricane as it heads toward the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico Monday night into Tuesday. That would make Zeta the Atlantic’s 11th hurricane of the season.
Increasing wind shear and cooler waters should prevent additional strengthening of Zeta as it approaches the northern U.S. Gulf Coast by midweek. Zeta could be near or at hurricane strength when it makes landfall on Wednesday, somewhere from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle, according to the latest National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast.
It’s important to note that impacts from rainfall, wind and storm surge along the northern Gulf Coast will largely be the same no matter whether Zeta is a strong tropical storm or a low-end hurricane when it nears landfall.
Damaging winds are expected in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Monday night through early Tuesday. A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet is also possible there.
Bands of heavy rainfall could trigger some flash flooding in parts of Mexico’s northeast Yucatan Peninsula, central and western Cuba and the Cayman Islands. Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches (locally 12 inches) are possible in these areas.
Heavy rainfall, storm surge and strong winds will begin to impact the northern Gulf Coast Tuesday night and especially Wednesday. Here’s a look at what we know about the potential impacts right now.
There will be a broad area of soaking rainfall across the southern and eastern U.S. during the second half of the week ahead. That’s because Zeta’s moisture will be pulled northward by a separate weather system tracking eastward across the country, as depicted in the map below.
That means a broad area from the South into parts of the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic could see at least an inch of rainfall from this setup. Heavier totals are likely in some areas, and that might trigger flash flooding in spots.
Rainfall could be heaviest near where the center of Zeta tracks inland through the southern and eastern United States Tuesday night through Thursday. Areas from the central U.S. Gulf Coast to the Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic could see rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches (locally up to 6 inches), according to the NHC
Tropical-storm-force winds (39 mph or greater) will most likely arrive on the northern Gulf Coast sometime during the day on Wednesday. The strongest winds are expected near the immediate coast from Louisiana to southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
Hurricane-force winds are possible in a small area near where the center of Zeta crosses the coastline. But that will depend on the exact strength of Zeta at landfall.
Stronger wind gusts along the northern Gulf Coast could down some trees or knock out power.
Storm surge flooding from Zeta could inundate parts of the northern Gulf near and east of where the center crosses the coast.
It’s too early to provide specific details on the storm surge forecast.
A few tornadoes are possible Wednesday and Wednesday night from southeast Louisiana into southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
Check back to weather.com in the days ahead for additional forecast information.