Six dead as Zeta soaks Gulf Coast and Southeast

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 30, 2020

By Jeff Amy and Rebecca Santana

Associated Press

ATLANTA — Millions of people were without power and at least six were dead Thursday after Hurricane Zeta slammed into Louisiana and made a beeline across the South, leaving shattered buildings, thousands of downed trees and fresh anguish over a record-setting hurricane season.

From the bayous of the Gulf Coast to Atlanta and beyond, Southerners used to dealing with dangerous weather were left to pick up the pieces once again just days ahead of an election in which early voting continued despite the storm.

In Atlanta and New Orleans, drivers dodged trees in roads and navigated intersections without traffic signals. In Lakeshore, Mississippi, Ray Garcia returned home to find a shrimp boat washed up and resting against its pilings

“I don’t even know if insurance is going to pay for this,” Garcia said. “I don’t know what this boat has done.”

As many as 2.6 million homes and businesses lost power across seven states, but the lights were coming back on slowly. The sun came out and temperatures cooled, but trees were still swaying as the storm’s remnants blew through.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state sustained “catastrophic” damage on Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, where Zeta punched three breaches in the levee. Edwards ordered the Louisiana National Guard to fly in soldiers to assist with search and rescue efforts and urged continued caution.

“Oddly enough, it isn’t the storms that typically produce the most injuries and the fatalities. It’s the cleanup efforts. It’s the use of generators. It’s the carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s the electrocution that comes from power lines. So, now is the time to be very, very cautious out there,” Edwards said.

Lines of cars stretched more than 20 deep at one of the few gas stations open in Marrero, Louisiana. The owner was using an industrial generator to run the pumps and accepting cash only.

“The wait is kind of ridiculous, but it is what it is, you know?” said resident Jeanne Guillory. “I have no lights. I have no idea how long I’ll be without power. I’m hopeful that my generator gets fixed. That’s why I’m coming to put gas in the tanks. If it doesn’t, then I guess I just have a lot of gas to ride the four-wheeler.”

A Category 2 hurricane when it hit the southeastern Louisiana coast Wednesday, Zeta weakened to a post-tropical storm by Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The fast-moving storm was centered about 25 miles southwest of Cape May, New Jersey, and forecast to head east-northeast over the open Atlantic.

North Carolina and southeastern Virginia were still being buffeted with gusty winds Thursday evening, but Zeta was moving along at 53 mph.