Tropical storm Zeta strengthens into hurricane as it heads for Mexico

Katie Ramirez
October 28, 2020

The storm's maximum sustained winds have decreased from 80 to 70 miles per hour with higher gusts though it is forecast to re-strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane again when it moves over the southern Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday, according to the hurricane center.

Heavy rain is likely with storm total rainfall amounts of three to six inches and localized totals up to eight inches possible where rain bands repeatedly move across the same areas.

A "dangerous" storm surge is expected to raise water levels by 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels along the coast in the hurricane warning area near where the center is set to make landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Category 1 Hurricane Zeta, the 27th named storm of the current season, hit southern Mexico late Monday.

Hurricane Zeta is now located about 45 miles southeast of Cozumel, with maximum winds of 80 mph, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a public advisory Monday evening.

The peninsula is home to popular tourist resorts such as Cancun and Tulum, and Zeta descended on Mexico just weeks after Hurricane Delta battered the Yucatan region.

A person bathes on a beach in the city of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo.

Energy producers shut 16%, or 293,656 barrels per day (bpd) of oil and 6% of natural gas output, or 162.57 million cubic feet per day, the USA offshore energy regulator said.

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Zeta weakened back into a tropical storm overnight and is forecast to re-strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it approaches the northern Gulf Coast Wednesday, prompting hurricane, storm surge and tropical storm warnings from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

As of 10 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Zeta boasted winds near 100 km/h and was roughly 40 kilometres northeast of Progreso, Mexico and about 800 kilometres south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

BHP Group Ltd also withdrew staff from its U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore facilities, and Royal Dutch Shell paused drilling and limited staff movement to its platforms.

A hurricane watch was posted from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Quintana Roo state officials reported almost 60,000 tourists in the state as of midweek.

They said 71 shelters were readied for tourists or residents who might need them, though the governor said he hoped it would not be necessary to move guests out of their hotels.

It is not expected to remain a tropical storm for long however. As well, if it does makes landfall onto the U.S. Gulf Coast as predicted, it will be the 11th named storm in 2020 to do so, tying a record. That season was the first to exhaust the traditional hurricane name list, with subsequent storms being designated with letters from the Greek alphabet. So there's a non-zero chance further named storms may beckon after this year's Zeta has died down.

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