Hurricane Zeta barraged the South with powerful winds on Thursday, shredding homes and businesses, knocking down trees and leaving about 2 million electricity customers without power.
The storm moved quickly, making landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday afternoon. Before the night was over, officials on the coast had already begun assessing the extent of the damage and deploying workers to begin restoring power.
But by Thursday afternoon, about 400,000 customers in Louisiana were still without electricity, according to Entergy Louisiana, while more than 500,000 across Georgia, about 465,000 in Alabama, more than 510,000 across the Carolinas and about 80,000 in Mississippi were also without power.
Emergency responders struggled to reach Grand Isle, a remote barrier island with some 1,400 residents on the Louisiana coast, that officials said was one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Thursday that the community had been slammed with storm surge, and that it was difficult to reach as the highway leading had been blocked by impassable floodwaters and in one part by an oyster vessel that had been deposited by the storm.
As it moved northeast, Zeta weakened into a tropical storm, and then a post-tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Zeta made its way through the Mid-Atlantic states Thursday afternoon, and by 5 p.m. Eastern the National Hurricane Center said it was “zooming offshore.”
Zeta had hit coastal areas with several feet of storm surge, but much of its wrath came from powerful winds. In New Orleans, the storm left behind a dark city. The storm also unleashed floods in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Zeta pounded a region that had been left hobbled and exhausted by a long and punishing season. It was the fifth named storm to hit Louisiana this year, and the 27th so far in the Atlantic season.
The storm intensified in strength in the final hours before landfall, nearly growing into a Category 3 storm. Yet the region benefited from Zeta’s rapid pace of roughly 20 mph, which meant the communities in its path were spared from the deluges delivered by previous storms that had been much more sluggish.