26 October 2020

Hurricane Zeta and déjà vu for Louisiana

On Monday afternoon, Zeta was upgraded to the season's 11th hurricane.  Looking back to 1851 when official records begin, only two previous seasons had 11+ hurricanes by this date: 2005 (13) and 1950 (11), so this is a truly remarkable level of activity. 

But, as if having 27 named storms and 11 hurricanes this season were not enough, Zeta looks like it will make landfall in roughly the same place where Tropical Storm Cristobal did in early June, Hurricane Laura in late August, Tropical Storm Marco in late August, Hurricane Sally in mid September, and Hurricane Delta in early October. It's only 340 miles between Sally's landfall point in eastern Alabama and Laura's landfall point in western Louisiana.

Zeta is forecast to clip the northern Yucatan peninsula on Monday night into Tuesday morning as a hurricane, then enter the Gulf of Mexico. While it should maintain hurricane intensity through its U.S. landfall on Wednesday, model guidance is consistently showing it weakening a bit as it approaches land, so it *could* be a tropical storm by that time. Regardless, heavy rain, strong wind, and storm surge will be hazards across a wide area. Keep in mind that a hurricane's impacts are far larger than a track line or the "cone of uncertainty".

Regarding track guidance, two of the global ensembles are packed pretty tightly now, with solutions ranging from western LA to the western tip of the FL panhandle, clustered most tightly around central-eastern LA.

The official hurricane season ends in 35 days, but nature does not have to stick to that artificial bound, so there's plenty of time for more storms this season. The next couple of names on the list are Eta and Theta. There's a slight hint among long-range models of another development in the western Caribbean in 10-14 days, but that is too far out to be reliable... think of it as the next potential time and region of favorable conditions.

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