Hurricane Zeta Leaves Death And Destruction In Its Wake

By Jeff Amy and Kevin McGill

– Huffington Post

The storm, which killed six people, also caused power outages in seven states.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trees on top of buses and cars. Roofs ripped off homes. Boats pushed onto the highway by surging seawater. Hundreds of thousands of people left in the dark.

The remnants of Hurricane Zeta were far from land over the Atlantic on Friday, but people across the South were still digging out from the powerful storm that killed six people.

The wind effects of Zeta, which came ashore in Cocodrie, Louisiana, and barreled northeast, were felt all the way from the Gulf Coast to southern New Jersey. At the height of the outages, as many as 2.6 million people were without power across seven states from Louisiana to Virginia. Utility crews were out assessing the damage and fixing it.

In Louisiana, one of the hardest-hit areas was Grand Isle, a barrier island community south of New Orleans. Gov. John Bel Edwards called the damage there “catastrophic” and ordered the Louisiana National Guard to fly in soldiers to assist with search and rescue efforts.

Dodie Vegas, who with her husband owns Bridge Side Marina on Grand Isle, said damage was minimal at their waterside complex of cabins, campgrounds and docking facilities, but the rest of the island wasn’t so lucky.

“As far as you can see, going down the island, the power lines are cracked in half,” she said by phone Thursday after riding out the storm with family. She described torn-off roofs and scattered debris: “The middle of the island looks like a bomb was dropped.”

A man was electrocuted in New Orleans, and four people died in Alabama and Georgia when trees fell on homes, authorities said, including two people who were pinned to their bed. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a man drowned when he was trapped in rising seawater.

Officials repeatedly stressed that the risks were not over — pointing out that fatalities often come after a storm has passed, from things like breathing toxic generator fumes or being electrocuted by downed power lines.

Zeta was the 27th named storm of a historically busy year, with more than a month left in the Atlantic hurricane season. It set a new record as the 11th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. in a single season, well beyond the nine that hit in 1916. And the coronavirus pandemic has only made things more difficult for evacuees.

“Our heart breaks because this has been a tough, tough year,” said Gov. Edwards, whose state has taken the brunt of the hurricanes.

Every storm is different, and with Zeta the biggest threat was its winds. The hurricane intensified quickly and was just shy of a major, Category 3 storm when it hit the Louisiana coast.

The howling gale toppled trees and knocked limbs off stately oaks in New Orleans, and in Mississippi the storm surge whipped up by the winds tossed a shrimping boat into a front yard.

Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama, said hundreds of trees fell in roads and on homes, while some gas station canopies blew over.

“At one point, every major thoroughfare was blocked by trees,” Day said.

Many people were still assessing the damage.

Keith Forrest of Bridge City, Louisiana, was launching a boat with his nephew in Lafitte, Louisiana, on Thursday to try to get to his fishing camp.

“I got a phone call because the roof blew off one camp,” Forrest said.

With just a few days until the Nov. 3 election, there were concerns about whether the storm would impact voters’ ability to get to the polls.

Far fewer early voters showed up after the storm in Pascagoula, Mississippi, a court clerk said, and power failures in two Georgia counties disrupted voting. In Louisiana, getting power back to polling centers was a priority as was letting voters know quickly if there were any changes to locations come Tuesday.

In Georgia, a group of civil rights organizations asked the governor to extend early voting hours Friday.

In the remote area of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, commercial fisherman Acy Cooper said his boats survived the storm. But without electricity, he feared operations could be shut down as long as two weeks.

“Without no lights, none of the docks can work,” he said. “Everything’s automated now — the scales and the conveyors.”

The heightened storm activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

And as bad as the 2020 hurricane season has been, it isn’t over. Forecasters said disturbed air off the northern coast of South America could become a tropical depression and head toward Nicaragua by early next week — a forecast not lost on Louisiana’s governor.

“Let’s not pray it on anybody else,” Edwards said. “Let’s just pray it away from us.”

Amy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press contributors include Rebecca Santana in New Orleans, Ben Nadler in Atlanta, Stacey Plaisance in Marrero, Louisiana; Gerald Herbert in Lakeshore, Mississippi; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Skip Foreman in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; Sophia Tulp and Desiree Mathurin in Atlanta.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hurricane-zeta_n_5f9baddac5b6368573d0bb61

7.5 magnitude quake off Alaska prompts tsunami warning

Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A reported 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the Alaska Peninsula on Monday prompted tsunami warnings for a vast swath of communities, leading some schools to evacuate and send students to higher ground.

Raynelle Gardner, a secretary at Sand Point School in the Aleutians East Borough School District, said things are hectic because “this is an evacuation point.”

Some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were evacuating to higher ground, the district said on Twitter.

Public safety officials in King Cove sent out an alert urging residents in the coastal area to move inland to higher ground.

The tsunami warning was issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center, following an earthquake off Sand Point, Alaska.

The size of the quake was originally reported to have been a magnitude of 7.4, but has been revised to a 7.5, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He said an earthquake of this size, in this area, is not a surprise.

“This is an area where the Pacific Plate is subducting underneath the North American Plate. And because of that, the Pacific Plate actually goes underneath the North American Plate, where it melts,” Caruso said, noting that’s why there are volcanoes in the region. “And so we commonly have large, magnitude 7 earthquakes in that area.”

The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the tsunami warning was in effect for roughly 950 miles (1,529 kilometers), from 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Unalaska.

Unalaska officials sent out a message saying the city is just outside the warning zone and they aren’t ordering evacuations right now. Unalaska public safety officials earlier Monday had sent out a release saying they would be conducting tests of the community’s tsunami warning sirens.

The Alaska Earthquake Center said the quake was widely felt in communities along the southern coast, including Sand Point, Chignik, Unalaska and the Kenai Peninsula. The Alaska Earthquake Center said a magnitude 5.2 aftershock was reported 11 minutes later, centered roughly in the same area.

“It was a pretty good shaker here,” said David Adams, co-manager of Marine View Bed and Breakfast in Sand Point. “We’re doing OK.” He said all guests were accounted for and “the structure itself is sound.”

“You could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering during the quake,” he said. “Our truck was swaying big time.” He didn’t take any photos or video: “It just kind of happened of all of a sudden.”

Rita Tungul, front desk assistant at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, said she felt some shaking but it wasn’t strong. Her coworker didn’t feel the quake at all, she said.

Connie Newton, owner of the Bearfoot Inn, a grocery store, liquor store and small hotel in Cold Bay, said the temblor it felt like someone drove into her building with a truck. Still, nothing fell to the ground and she suffered no damage because she earthquake-proofed her stores by installing 2-inch (5-cm) risers around the outside of her selves.

___

Associated Press journalists Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Audrey McAvoy and Caleb Jones in Honolulu and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.

apnews.com/article/alaska-tsunamis-earthquakes-70c2c261c95e3becd17cf67e95915af7

Busy 2020 hurricane season has Louisiana bracing a 6th time

By STACEY PLAISANCE and REBECCA SANTANA

Associated Press

MORGAN CITY, La. (AP) — For the sixth time in the Atlantic hurricane season, people in Louisiana are once more fleeing the state’s barrier islands and sailing boats to safe harbor while emergency officials ramp up command centers and consider ordering evacuations.

The storm being watched Wednesday was Hurricane Delta, the 25th named storm of the Atlantic’s unprecedented hurricane season. Forecasts placed most of Louisiana within Delta’s path, with the latest National Hurricane Center estimating landfall in the state on Friday.

The center’s forecasters warned of winds that could gust well above 100 mph (160 kph) and up to 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water potentially rushing onshore when the storm’s center hits land.

“This season has been relentless,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, dusting off his now common refrain of 2020 – “Prepare for the worst. Pray for the best.”

Delta strengthened back into a Category 2 hurricane early Thursday after a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the northern U.S. Gulf Coast. Some weakening is forecast once Delta approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Friday, when the National Hurricane Center predicted hurricane conditions would begin in parts of the area. The center said Delta is expected to become a major hurricane again, like it was days earlier before hitting the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday.

So far, Louisiana has seen both major strikes and near misses. The southwest area of the state around Lake Charles, which forecasts show is on Delta’s current trajectory, is still recovering from an Aug. 27 landfall by Category 4 Hurricane Laura.

Nearly six weeks later, some 5,600 people remain in New Orleans hotels because their homes are too damaged to occupy. Trees, roofs and other debris left in Laura’s wake still sit by roadsides in the Lake Charles area waiting for pickup even as forecasters warned that Delta could be a larger than average storm.

New Orleans spent a few days last month bracing for Hurricane Sally before it skirted to the east, making landfall in Alabama on Sept. 16.

Edwards said President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a federal emergency declaration in advance for the state. The Democratic governor said he doesn’t expect widespread mandatory evacuations.

But Edwards said Wednesday that Delta is moving fast, so hurricane force winds could reach well inland, and expected heavy rains could cause flooding.

Plywood, batteries and rope already were flying off the shelves at the Tiger Island hardware store in Morgan City, Louisiana, which would be close to the center of the storm’s path.

“The other ones didn’t bother me, but this one seems like we’re the target,” customer Terry Guarisco said as a store employee helped him load his truck with plywood needed to board up his home.

In Sulphur, across the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles, Ben Reynolds was deciding whether to leave or stay. He had to use a generator for power for a week after Hurricane Laura.

“It’s depressing,” Reynolds said. “It’s scary as hell.”

By sundown Wednesday, Acy Cooper planned to have his three shrimp boats locked down and tucked into a Louisiana bayou for the third time this season.

“We’re not making any money,” Cooper said. “Every time one comes we end up losing a week or two.”

Lynn Nguyen, who works at the TLC Seafood Market in Abbeville, said each storm threat forces fisherman to spend days pulling hundreds of crab traps from the water or risk losing them.

“It’s been a rough year. The minute you get your traps out and get fishing, its time to pull them out again because something is brewing out there,” Nguyen said.

Elsewhere in Abbeville, Wednesday brought another round of boarding up and planning, said Vermilion Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lynn Guillory.

“I think that the stress is not just the stress of the storm this year, it’s everything – one thing after another,” Guillory said. “Somebody just told me, ‘You know, we’ve really had enough.’”

On Grand Isle, the Starfish restaurant planned to stay open until it ran out of food Wednesday. Restaurant employee Nicole Fantiny then planned to join the rush of people leaving the barrier island, where the COVID-19 pandemic already devastated the tourism industry.

“The epidemic, the coronavirus, put a lot of people out of work. Now, having to leave once a month for these storms — it’s been taking a lot,” said Fantiny. She tried to quit smoking two weeks ago but gave in and bought a pack of cigarettes Tuesday as Delta strengthened.

While New Orleans has been mostly spared by the weather and found itself outside Delta’s cone Wednesday, constant vigilance and months as a COVID-19 hot spot have strained a vulnerable city still scarred by memories of 2005′s Hurricane Katrina. Delta’s shifting forecast track likely meant no need for a major evacuation, but the city’s emergency officials were on alert.

“We’ve had five near misses. We need to watch this one very, very closely,” New Orleans Emergency Director Collin Arnold said.

Along with getting hit by Hurricane Laura and escaping Hurricane Sally, Louisiana saw heavy flooding June 7 from Tropical Storm Cristobal. Tropical Storm Beta prompted tropical storm warnings in mid-September as it slowly crawled up the northeast Texas coast.

Tropical Storm Marco looked like it might deliver the first half of a hurricane double-blow with Laura, but nearly dissipated before hitting the state near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Aug. 24.

“I don’t really remember all the names,” Keith Dunn said as he loaded up his crab traps as a storm threatened for a fourth time this season in Theriot, a tiny bayou town just feet above sea level.

And there are nearly eight weeks of hurricane season left, although forecasters at the National Weather Service office in New Orleans noted in a discussion Tuesday of this week’s forecast that outside of Delta, the skies above the Gulf of Mexico look calm.

“Not seeing any signs of any additional tropical weather in the extended which is OK with us because we are SO DONE with Hurricane Season 2020,” they wrote.

___

Santana reported from New Orleans. Gerald Herbert in Theriot, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.