Tropical Storm Zeta Strengthens as It Approaches Gulf Coast

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Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean over the weekend and could be at or near hurricane strength by the time it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

The Hurricane Center in Miami upgraded Zeta to a tropical storm from a tropical depression early Sunday. It is the 27th named storm in an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season, nearing a record set in 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to have names.

Zeta is forecast to become a hurricane before it makes landfall in the United States as early as Wednesday morning, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist with the Hurricane Center in Miami. It is poised to deal another devastating blow to the northern Gulf Coast, a region that has been battered by Hurricane Laura in late August, Hurricane Sally in September and Hurricane Delta this month. Those storms caused extensive property damage and have been blamed for several deaths.

The Hurricane Center said in an advisory on Sunday that Zeta “could be at or just below hurricane strength” when it hits the Gulf Coast. In the center’s 11 p.m. advisory, it said the storm was “gradually strengthening” and was about 270 miles south-south east of the western tip of Cuba, with sustained winds around 60 miles per hour.

Mr. Feltgen said Zeta could bring storm surges and heavy wind and rain “across a wide area of the northern Gulf Coast,” from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Zeta was hovering over the Caribbean on Sunday, Mr. Feltgen said. “It’s getting organized,” he added.

A Hurricane Warning was issued on Sunday by the government of Mexico for the Yucatán Peninsula the center said. A Tropical Storm warning remained in effect for western Cuba the center advised.

Zeta joins a long list of storms this year, several of which brought destruction across parts of the Gulf Coast. “They’re still dealing with the aftereffects of Laura, Sally and Delta,” Mr. Feltgen said.

Hurricane Laura battered Lake Charles, La., in late August; Hurricane Sally lashed the Florida Panhandle with a deluge of rain in September; and this month, Hurricane Delta made landfall in Louisiana less than 20 miles east of where Laura struck, slamming the area as it was still trying to recover.

“There’s no question there’s a lot of hurricane fatigue, but we’re still going to have to prepare” for Zeta, Mr. Feltgen said. Last week, Hurricane Epsilon, which passed Bermuda and did not make landfall in the United States, became the 10th hurricane this season.

With Tropical Storm Wilfred last month, the Hurricane Center exhausted its list of names, turning to the Greek alphabet for the first time since 2005.

That year, 28 storms grew strong enough to have names. The National Hurricane Center named 27 storms during the season and identified a 28th qualifying storm during a postseason analysis: a subtropical storm that formed briefly in October 2005 near the Azores, a remote archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

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