Fast-Moving Hurricane Zeta Kills Two People as It Rips Across U.S. South

(Reuters) —
Strong wind and heavy rain hit a neighborhood during Hurricane Zeta in Chalmette, Louisiana, Wednesday. (Nicolaas Migliore/via Reuters)

Hurricane Zeta tore across southern U.S. states on Thursday, leaving a trail of downed trees and damaged buildings and killing at least two people along its path.

The storm brought 110-mph (117-kph) winds to the Louisiana coast and knocked out power to 2.4 million people. A new Orleans man died after touching a live power line, while in Biloxi, Mississippi, a man drowned after his car became flooded near the coast.

The fifth tropical cyclone this year to strike Louisiana brought more misery to the Gulf Coast state, where thousands were still out of their homes from prior hurricanes.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged the city’s residents to stay indoors while crews removed storm debris and restored power.

“Now is not the time to go sightseeing,” Governor John Bel Edwards advised the state’s residents.

Zeta spun up in the Caribbean Sea and went from tropical storm to a damaging Category 2 hurricane in fewer than four days. It struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and raced across the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm steamed over warm Gulf waters toward the U.S. mainland at up to 20 mph (32 kph) and rode a fast-steering current that propelled it over the Appalachian Mountains and will push it to the Atlantic Ocean by Thursday evening.

Some 2.4 million homes and businesses were without power Thursday morning from Louisiana to North Carolina, according to local utilities.

This year’s hurricanes have cost homeowners and insurers billions of dollars for repairs, and cut U.S. oil and gas output from major oil companies by millions of barrels.

Zeta this week shut down two-thirds of offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production, and led energy producers to turn off undersea pipelines and evacuate workers from 231 offshore platforms and drilling rigs.

Oil companies including Hess Corp and W&T Offshore have cited the repeated Gulf Coast storms since June for missing production targets.

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