HURRICANE Zeta has left six people dead and 2.1 million without people as the storm devastated the Gulf Coast.
The 27th storm in the Atlantic hurricane season hit Louisiana as a Category 2 storm Wednesday before weakening to a post-tropical cyclone by Thursday afternoon.
The storm still packed a punch though with winds of 50mph as it neared the southern tip of New Jersey at around 5pm ET.
The hurricane center warned that strong gusts were likely in parts of eastern North Carolina as well as south-east Virginia throughout Thursday evening.
It also warned the mid-Atlantic states could expect heavy rainfall and flooding was likely.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Zeta was an “extremely strong” Category 2 storm, and was just one mile per hour short of qualifying as a Category 3.
Zeta claimed its first victim Wednesday when a 55-year-old man was electrocuted by a fallen power cable, the state’s governor’s office said, citing the Orleans Parish coroner.
The deputy chief of staff to the governor Christina Stephens said around 500,000 people in Louisiana were without power Thursday morning.
Officials told people to stay off the roads due to fallen power lines with possible live wires.
Coastal regions were hit by flooding causing some vessels to break loose from barges and causing damage to bridges.
Polling stations were also hit with power outages and Edwards said restoring power to those sites was a priority.
A task force has been set up to arrange alternate polling places for those that remain out of service.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in Jefferson and Terrebonne parishes ahead of the storm for coastal areas and places away from major levees.
Voluntary evacuations have also been issued in New Orleans for similar areas.
Gov Edwards said Grand Isle along the Louisiana coast had been the hardest hit but the flooding damage was due to the storm surge rather than rainfall.
Louisiana is still reeling from the damage inflicted by recent storms, including Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
Gov Edwards said Thursday that of the 3,394 people currently being sheltered, only 76 were due to Zeta.
Most of the evacuees have been displaced since August and have been put up in six hotels in New Orleans.
Edwards said the clean-up operation was already underway with 1,500 National Guard members and 5,000 linemen working to restore power.
Some 32.7 million people from the the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas have been under storm warnings since early Thursday morning.
Zeta caused substantial power outages across several states as it moved inland across the South.
The PowerOutage US said more than 1.7 million customers were still without power in Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina Thursday afternoon.
Captain Jay Baker from the Cherokee County sheriff’s office said a man was killed in Georgia Thursday morning when a large oak tree fell onto a mobile home.
Baker told CNN: At about 4am, the wind picked up, trees started falling. The tree was uprooted.”
Three other adults and a child were also in the mobile home at the time but were not injured.
Another two people were killed when a tree fell over their bed in their Gwinnett County, Georgia, home, local fire and emergency officials reports.
Leslie Richardson, 58, from Biloxi, Mississippi, also died due to Zeta, according to Brian Switzer, the Harrison County Coroner.
He said Richardson had drowned after he had been videotaping the waves at the marina.
SIX PEOPLE DEAD
Richardson had gone there along with another man to record the waves but they had become surrounded by the rising water.
He had called 911 and both men had clung to a tree but had been overtaken by the storm surge with Richardson tragically dying.
The other man had survived.
A man in Alabama also died on Thursday after a large pine tree fell through his mobile home in Morvin.
The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, reported on Thursday local officials had said there had been “significant to major damage” in Clarke County, some 80 miles north of Mobile.
It said in a Facebook post: "Structural damage. Ambulance building destroyed. Windows blown in several homes & businesses. Numerous trees on homes & cars. Communications & internet out.”
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson issued a curfew lasting between 6.30pm Thursday evening until 6.30am Friday morning.
A state of emergency was declared in Alabama by Gov Kay Ivey earlier this week and on Wednesday requested residents to finish storm preparations quickly, warning tropical storm winds were approaching.
Zeta is the 27th storm in the current Atlantic hurricane season, just one short of the record for most storms in a season.
In 2005 there were 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes.
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