The U.S. Gulf Coast braces for impact as Hurricane Zeta approaches.

The U.S. Gulf Coast braces for impact as Hurricane Zeta approaches. / National Hurricane Center

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

Hurricane Zeta has made landfall in Cocodrie, La., about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 2 storm is showing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

Offshore buoys have reported wave heights in excess of 50 feet. The hurricane is moving quickly toward New Orleans, where it's already raining heavily.

It's yet more calamitous weather for a Gulf Coast that has already been hit hard this season by hurricanes and tropical storms. The governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have each declared a state of emergency in advance of Zeta's landfall.

Zeta is one of only three on record to make landfall in the continental U.S. this late in the calendar year, according to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.

The hurricane center projects "life-threatening storm surge" and winds capable of significant damage. The National Weather Service reported that dangerous storm surge had already begun along the Gulf Coast.

Officials in New Orleans, which hasn't been hit hard by the season's earlier storms, were preparing for a strong storm. "I don't think we're going to be as lucky with this one," the city's emergency preparedness director, Collin Arnold, told CNN.

"Complete any preparation ASAP!" the National Weather Service of New Orleans tweeted. "Conditions will continue to worsen throughout the day!"

The hurrican center's Wednesday morning advisory painted a grim picture of the potential storm surge in the worst-hit areas, especially if the peak surge occurs during high tide. In Alabama, areas from the mouth of the Pearl River to Dauphin Island could see water levels rise between 6 and 9 feet. In Louisiana, areas from Port Fourchon to the mouth of the Mississippi River could see a surge of 5 to 8 feet.

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves," hurricane center forecaster Richard Pasch said.


Conditions deteriorated Wednesday morning along portions of the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Zeta was moving north-northeast at 20 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds could be felt up to 150 miles away, the hurricane center said.

Officials warn that Zeta's high winds could uproot trees and power lines, damage structures and lead to flying debris. "Wind gusts can be especially severe across the southern Appalachian Mountains on Thursday," Pasch said.

A few tornadoes are also expected Wednesday afternoon and evening in some areas over southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Panhandle of Florida.

Emergency resources are standing by across the Gulf states. Now, there's not much left to do but wait. Perhaps Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves summed up the general sentiment of government officials with his morning message on Twitter: "Stay sharp, stay safe, and pray for God's protection."

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