Coroner in Louisiana confirms 1st death from Hurricane Zeta: 55-year-old man electrocuted by downed power lines

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AP NEWS (La.) – A Louisiana coroner is confirming the first known death from Hurricane Zeta, that of a 55-year-old man who was electrocuted by downed power lines.

Alyson Neel, a spokesperson with the Louisiana Department of Health, said the death was disclosed by the coroner for Orleans Parish on Wednesday night. The dead man’s name wasn’t immediately released by the coroner’s office and exact circumstances of the death were not immediately disclosed.

The first fatality report came hours after Zeta howled ashore in southeast Louisiana as an unexpectedly strong Category 2 hurricane. Packing 110-mph (175-kph) winds, it was just 1 mph (1.6 kph) shy of a devastating Category 3 hurricane.

The extent of the disaster wasn’t immediately known after nightfall, though an official in one hard-hit parish reported multiple distress calls to emergency responders from people whose roofs were torn away.

8:30 p.m.

Louisiana’s governor says Hurricane Zeta has caused extensive structural damage to businesses and homes in hard-hit areas of the state’s southeast.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a radio interview Wednesday evening that there also have been extensive power outages after the storm crash ashore in the afternoon as a powerful Category 2 storm.

He said Plaquemines Parish in the region saw 94 percent of its users lose power. He also said boats broke loose and struck a bridge in the south Louisiana community of Lafitte.

The extent of damages wasn’t immediately known Wednesday night, and the governor is expected to tour the damaged areas on Thursday. Meanwhile, there were no immediate reports on any injuries or deaths.

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8:05 p.m.

MIAMI — Hurricane Zeta is weakening as it races into Mississippi, though strong winds and a dangerous storm surge are continuing.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said top sustained winds have now dropped to 90 mph (145 kph) and Zeta is now a Category 1 hurricane. Zeta made landfall on Wednesday afternoon in southern Louisiana as a powerful Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph).

The core of the storm as of 8 p.m. Wednesday was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north-northeast of Slidell, Louisiana. Zeta is now picking up forward speed and heading inland across southeast Mississippi. It’s now moving ahead at about a 25-mph (40-kph) clip and is expected to cross the Southeast overnight and Thursday.

8 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS __ Large sections of the French Quarter district of New Orleans appeared to be in darkness after Hurricane Zeta blew across southeast Louisiana.

The first few blocks of the famed Bourbon Street in the tourist district had power Wednesady night but then the rest of the street was black. A few people were walking through the streets of the historic district but the only illumination in many areas came from the occasional headlights of cars. But nearby in the city’s Central Business District, power was still on in the city’s tall buildings.

Meanwhile, officials in the New Orleans metro area are calling on people across the region to stay home as the worst of Zeta appeared to have passed. Officials said they don’t want people to venture out of their houses while it’s dark and possibly run into downed trees or power lines.

The sheriff of one of the state’s coastal areas, Gerald Turlich, told WWL-TV that damage can be hard to see at night. He said a mobile home trailer in one area blew over with no one inside. Several other trailers also were damaged but he said most people living in the mobile homes had already evacuated.

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7 p.m.

Hurricane Zeta has begun to batter Mississippi’s Gulf Coast with a dangerous storm surge, high winds and heavy rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Zeta was packing 100-mph (160-kph) sustained winds as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, its eye centered just 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Slidell, Louisiana, not far from the Mississippi line.

The storm is racing to the north-northeast at 25 mph (41 kph). Forecasters say the storm will roar into southeastern Mississippi over the coming hour or two and howl across the Southeast states on Thursday en route to the East Coast. Several Southeast states are in the cross hairs of the fast-moving storm over the coming day.

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6:50 p.m.

CHALMETTE, La. — An official in an area southeast of New Orleans says authorities are fielding numerous calls from people in distress whose roofs were torn away by Hurricane Zeeta.

Guy McInnis, president of St. Bernard Parish in southeast Louisiana, said first responders are answering the calls as best they can in the parish, which is similar to a U.S. county.

“We have multiple reports of people in distress with their roofs being blown off,” Parish President Guy McInnis told WDSU-TV. He added: “We’re going to get out there as soon as we can.”

McInnis didn’t have immediate details of the amount damage after powerful Hurricane Zeta roared ashore Wednesday afternoon in south Louisiana, packing 110-mph (175-kph) winds. But he said “we received the brunt of Zeta, and Zeta gave us a good punch.”

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6:30 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Officials say a person has been taken to a hospital with minor injuries after a structure collapsed in New Orleans as Hurricane Zeta pummeled the city.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell told WDSU-TV that the person sustained minor injuries after the collapse on Washington Avenue.

“Knowing that they’re minor injuries, it does give me some relief,” she said in a live interview with the station. No other details were immediately available, including how big the structure was.

Zeta made landfall along the south Louisiana coast Wednesday afternoon and has been hitting the city with fierce winds as a Category 2 storm.

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5:50 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Zeta is hammering New Orleans with high winds, toppling trees, sparking numerous power outages and knocking street lights out at several intersections.

The powerful Category 2 hurricane took aim at the Mississippi River port city after making landfall Wednesday afternoon along the south Louisiana coast.

At one New Orleans intersection, a 70-foot-tall (20-meter) tree split in fierce winds, taking down utility lines and sparking a brief but bright orange flash. Video on local television showed the branches on palm trees on the city’s Canal Street blowing furiously in the wind and oak trees shaking elsewhere from the pounding.

According to the emergency operations Twitter feed for the city of New Orleans, over 80,000 people in the city of nearly 400,000 residents were without power.

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5 p.m.

Forecasters say the eyewall of powerful Hurricane Zeta is approaching New Orleans as it is being buffeted by high winds.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said a life-threatening storm surge is also occurring after Zeta powered ashore Wednesday afternoon on the south Louisiana coast.

Forecasters are warning those in Zeta’s path not to venture out when the calm eye of the hurricane passes overhead. “Dangerous winds will return very quickly when the eye moves away, Stronger winds, especially in gusts, are likely on high rise buildings,” the hurricane center said in a statement.

Winds already where whipping through New Orleans as Zeta started to hammer the city. Only one or two cars could be seen on the streets and a bridge across the Mississippi River was hidden behind a wall of storm clouds. The wail of a police siren could be heard, and power outages were being reported in various neighborhoods around New Orleans.

The center of Zeta was located at 5 p.m. about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south-southwest of New Orleans. Top sustained winds remained at 110 mph (175 kph) — just 1 mph (1.6 kph) shy of a devastating Category 3 hurricane.

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4:25 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Zeta powered ashore just 1 mph (1.6 kph) shy of a devastating Category 3 hurricane, gaining in intensity just before its south Louisiana landfall.

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said Zeta’s 110 mph (175 kph) winds would make it the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States this late in the calendar since the 1899 Halloween Hurricane struck South Carolina. The storm roared ashore Wednesday afternoon.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Zeta’s core was centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southwest of New Orleans. Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane’s top sustained winds had strengthened slightly before landfall.

In coastal Louisiana, the president of St. Bernard Parish, Guy McInnis, called on residents to stay home as Zeta pummels the region. Speaking on WDSU-TV he said he could see oak trees in front of his building swaying back and said he’s very concerned about high winds.

He also said he was praying for the best outcome — meaning no deaths or injuries.

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4 p.m.

MIAMI — The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Zeta has crashed ashore in storm-weary Louisiana as a powerful Category 2 storm, striking the latest blow of an extraordinarily busy Atlantic tropical storm season.

The Miami-based center says a hurricane hunter aircraft confirmed at 4 p.m. Wednesday that the menacing storm had made landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana.

The fast-moving storm came ashore on the southern Louisiana coastline in a region of the Gulf Coast that has already been in the crosshairs of earlier storms this season.

The storms this season have so far veered away from New Orleans, but this time the low-lying city appeared squarely in the hurricane’s path. Officials have said the biggest concern with this storm is the high winds but have also said that the storm is moving fast. That means it won’t linger and dump huge amounts of rain.

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3:45 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Heavy rains are pelting New Orleans and the wind has begun to pick up as Hurricane Zeta nears the south Louisiana coast.

The city’s touristy French Quarter was largely deserted as stronger winds were lashing the coast. Some power outages were reported in New Orleans, a low-lying city beside the Mississippi River.

David Camardelle is the mayor of Grand Isle, a barrier island along the Louisiana coast. He told broadcaster WDSU on Wednesday that everyone is “bunkered down” as they were starting to get “some serious wind.” But he said so far they haven’t seen big storm surges.

In a 3 p.m. update, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm has top sustained winds of 110 mph (about 175 kph). It was just 1 mph (1.6 kph) shy of becoming a powerful Category 3 storm.

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3:15 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Zeta is just short of being considered a major hurricane as it speeds toward storm-weary Louisiana with New Orleans squarely in its path.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to make landfall in southeast Louisiana on Wednesday afternoon.

In a 3 p.m. update, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm has top sustained winds of 110 mph (about 175 kph). It was just 1 mph (1.6 kph) shy of becoming a powerful Category 3 storm.

If Zeta makes landfall with 110 mph (175 kph) winds it will be the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States this late in the calendar since the 1899 Halloween Hurricane hit South Carolina, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Zeta is located about 60 miles ( kilometers) southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and is racing north-northeast at 22 mph (35 kph).

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3 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Zeta became the seventh Atlantic storm this season to officially rapidly intensify, jumping from 65 mph Tuesday to 100 mph Wednesday.

Over the past couple decades, meteorologists have been increasingly worried about storms that just blow up in strength, like Zeta. They created an official threshold for this dangerous powering up — a storm gaining 35 mph (56 kph) in wind speed in just 24 hours.

Earlier this year Hannah, Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma and Delta all rapidly intensified. An eighth storm, Marco, just missed the mark. Laura and Delta tied or set records for rapid intensification. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and hurricane scientist Jim Kossin studied the effect and found storms now are more likely to rapidly intensify than they did in the 1980s and “a lot of that has to do with human-caused climate change.”

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3 p.m.

ATLANTA — More than 20 north Georgia public school districts, including the state’s two largest, are telling students not to come to school on Thursday because of storm Zeta.

School officials are calling off school because of the fear of rain, wind and power outages from Hurricane Zeta as it makes its way inland. Many districts are telling students to work remotely by computer from home, with teachers also delivering lessons from home.

Among districts that are calling off in-person classes are the 180,000-student Gwinnett County district and the 110,000-student Cobb County district, both in the northern suburbs of Atlanta.

“This decision was made in keeping with our commitment to student and staff safety, with particular concern for our youngest bus riders,” the Cobb district said in a statement.

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