Zeta Knocks Out Power to 2 Million and Kills 3 People as It Races Across the South

Published in 29 October, 2020

At a Glance

  • Tropical Storm Zeta leaves a swath of damage far inland hours after landfall in Louisiana.

  • Storm surge flooded communities along the northern Gulf Coast.

  • At least three people are dead.

  • Power was out to more than 2 million customers in seven states.

  • The Grand Isle “burrito levee” was breached in three places.

Zeta, which came ashore Wednesday in Louisiana as a strong Category 2 hurricane, wreaked havoc as it raced across the Southern U.S. Thursday morning.

Now a tropical storm, Zeta ripped off roofs, knocked down power lines and trees and flooded streets as it roared through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia early Thursday. Heavy rain and winds also pounded eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas.

More than 2 million homes and businesses were without power across seven states as of 7 a.m., according to power outage.us. In Georgia alone, more than 1 million customers had no electricity. Louisiana was reporting more than half a million outages.

At least three people died in the storm. In Louisiana, a 55-year-old man was electrocuted by low-hanging power lines in New Orleans. In Mississippi, an Alabama man taking video of the storm in Biloxi drowned at a marina, the Sun Herald reported. In Georgia, one person was reportedly killed when a tree fell through their house in Cherokee County, the AJC reported.

(WATCH: Jim Cantore Surprised by Waves in Parking Garage)

The storm made landfall about 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday near Cocodrie in Terrebonne Parish and moved over New Orleans with howling winds and driving rain. Here’s a look at some of the impacts of the storm state by state.

Atlanta was under a tropical storm warning for the second time ever. Its first warning was in 2017 when Hurricane Irma roared into Florida as a deadly Category 4 storm.

And Zeta delivered. The storm downed trees and power lines across northern Georgia. More than 1 million homes and businesses had their power knocked out.

Several school districts either moved classes fully online or canceled classes all together Thursday.

First responders had to rescue an Atlanta man pinned to his bed when a large tree fell into his bedroom. The man had minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to a fire department spokesman.

Trees were down across the state blocking dozens of roads, including Interstate 20 in Fulton County and in DeKalb County.

In Gwinnett County, a fallen tree closed I-985 South between Buford Drive and I-85, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

At least three counties, Cobb, Fulton and Rockdale, announced early voting would be delayed Thursday because of the storm, WXIA reported. They planned to open at 10 or 10:30 a.m.

“Zeta has left hazards like flooded roads, downed power lines and displaced wildlife in our communities that no one should take lightly. Now is not the time to go sight-seeing,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted Thursday morning. “Everyone needs to remain vigilant, continue to listen to local officials and be safe.”

Louisiana was hit hard by Zeta, the fifth tropical system to make landfall in the state this season.

About 25 people had to be evacuate when Zeta caused part of an apartment building to collapse near Gretna, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish, WDSU reported. One person was injured.

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.

Thursday morning, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge was closed in both directions because of the severe weather, the state Department of Transportation announced.

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.

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.

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.

In Pass Christian, U.S. Highway 90, which crosses Bay St. Louis, was beginning to take on water, according Harrison County Emergency Management director Rupert Lacy.

Cars in a parking garage at a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, floated like toys in the surge. The Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore said the storm surge was likely 8 feet in Biloxi. He said it was 8.2 feet in Bay St. Louis.

Multiple semitractor-trailers were knocked over on Interstate 10 near Bay St. Louis, according to stormchaser Aaron Jayjack.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol said eastbound 1-10 over the Pascagoula River had to be closed because of an overturned semi.

Zeta’s strong winds ripped the steeple off Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi.

“When I opened up the door, it just blew it right off,” Jewell Thomas, the church’s caretaker, told WLOX. “It was amazing that it didn’t do anymore damage then what it’s done. ”

The storm also severely damaged the roof of a historic African American gathering place in Bay St. Louis. About a quarter of the roof of the 100 Men Hall was ripped off, WLOX reported.

The National Weather Service reported trees down on houses in Forrest County and Lamar County.

The storm surge was causing flooding in Mobile, Alabama, late Wednesday night.

Trees fell on a house and cars on Dauphin Island about 9:15 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Rushing water closed the Dauphin Island Causeway. Mobile Fire Rescue conducted a water rescue on the causeway at the Dog River Bridge.

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