Update: Late afternoon Monday, NOAA announced that Zeta had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane. Data from an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter plane indicated that “Zeta has become a hurricane, with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 km/h) with higher gusts,” NOAA reported.
Forecasts project that Tropical Storm Zeta might hit a zone including the western Panhandle “at or near hurricane strength” on Wednesday evening. Although landfall remains a few days out, Florida officials are encouraging residents to keep a close eye on the storm.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned of “an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, wind, and rainfall impacts from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis shared the report in a tweet and added that “residents in Northwest Florida should monitor this storm closely” and gather supplies enough to last seven days. The Florida Division of Emergency Management shared similar sentiments on its Twitter feed.
Zeta is the latest storm of 2020’s “busy” Atlantic Hurricane season, in line with previous projections from NOAA.
In mid September, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties experienced heavy rainfall, power outages, and millions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Sally.
Louisiana is expected to bear the brunt of Tropical Storm Zeta as the state continues to recover from two recent hurricanes.
For the next two days, Zeta will crawl north through the gulf, affecting parts of Mexico, the Cayman Islands, and parts of Cuba with heavy rainfall possibly leading flash floods, according to recent forecasts.