Cancun – Residents of the storm-hit Gulf Coast on Tuesday directed themselves to yet another tropical airstrike as Tropical Storm Zita targeted southeastern Louisiana, disturbing the nerves of evacuees from previous storms and raising concerns in New Orleans about the low-town’s old drainage. Pump system.
Zeta, the 27th storm of a very busy hurricane season in the Atlantic, was a hurricane when it began to sweep across the Mexican Yucatan peninsula early Tuesday. It appeared in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm, but the hurricane was expected to regain strength before landing south of New Orleans on Wednesday evening.
Already this year, Louisiana has been hit by two tropical storms and two hurricanes: Laura, which is blamed for at least 27 deaths in Louisiana after it hit it in August, and Delta, which has exacerbated Laura’s damage in the same area weeks later. New Orleans has been in the warning zone of potential tropical cyclones seven times this year but has seen them veer east or west.
“I don’t think we’ll be lucky with that,” the city’s emergency director, Colin Arnold, told a news conference with Mayor Latoya Cantrell. Louisiana Gov. John Bill Edwards said on Tuesday he had asked President Donald Trump to make a disaster declaration before the storm. Trump approved the announcement on Tuesday evening.
One concern among officials in New Orleans: The turbines that power drain pumps on city streets broke down on Sunday, according to officials with the agency that manages the system. There was enough power to keep the pumps running if needed, but it left the authorities with a little extra power to take advantage in the event of a failure of the other turbines.
Officials said they go through emergencies to save energy and make repairs as needed in case there are other problems with the equipment. Meanwhile, forecasts have called for 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) of rain in the New Orleans area. Officials indicated that Zeta was expected to be a relatively fast-moving storm, reducing the risk of flooding.
Zita was exposed to winds of 65 miles per hour (105 km / h) and was centered 410 miles (655 kilometers) southwest of the Mississippi Estuary Tuesday afternoon. Her approach to New Orleans meant more concerns for the evacuees left homeless and sheltered in hotels. The state is home to about 3,600 evacuated people from Laura and Delta, most of them in New Orleans area hotels.
“It’s really scary, and I don’t know what to do,” said Yolanda Lockett, whose apartment in Lake Charles – now full of rain and mold – evacuated before Laura at the end of August. “I am physically and mentally tired,” she said as she stood outside a hotel in New Orleans.
A hurricane warning stretched from central Louisiana to the Alabama state line. Edwards and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared states of emergency before the storm.
And commercial hunters began a familiar ritual preparation for the hurricane.
“We have succeeded in doing this five times this season so far,” said Robert Campo as he prepared for his berth in Shell Beach to weather the storm. The routine includes removing the gas pumps used for boat fuel, loading the frozen bait on old school buses that have been converted into mobile freezing units and tying trash cans to prevent them from floating.
“The downfall is when … we stumble for four or five days, that is, four or five days no one is hunting. These are four or five days no one eats shrimp. These are four or five days, there are no economic wheels turning.”
On Dauphine Island, off the coast of Alabama, workers at the Dauphine Island marina prepared for Zeta on Tuesday although little work remains to protect it after Sally struck her in September.
Marina employee Jesse Doylebe said, “Right now we’re packing things just just to be safe. We don’t have any tanks or fuel pumps at this point. Sally took it all.”
In Waveland, Mississippi, hardware store operator David Hubbard has not seen the usual rush of people buying storm supplies. He said most of them have what they need because Zita is only the last threat.
Officials in two Mexican states hit by Zeta reported power cuts and tree fall damage, but no fatalities. The sand storm left the street across the Cancun hotel strip. The rolling waves destroyed several turtle nests in the Playa Palinas, leaving eggs strewn along the shore.
Zeta broke the record for the oldest previous Atlantic storm, No. 27, which was formed on November 29, 2005. It is also the eleventh hurricane of the season. The average season sees six hurricanes and 12 specific storms.
There have been so many storms this season that the Hurricane Center has had to resort to the Greek alphabet after the assigned names run out.
The unusually busy hurricane season has focused attention on the role of climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger, and more destructive storms.
Reported Santana from Shell Beach, Louisiana. Associated Press correspondents Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Kevin McGill of New Orleans and Gabriel Alcoser in Cancun, Mexico contributed to this report.
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