The US state of Louisiana is once again under a hurricane warning as a powerful storm swirled across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on a path that could take it to New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Zeta, the 27th named storm in a very busy Atlantic season, made landfall just north of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 80mph. It weakened to a tropical storm over land, but is expected to regain its strength over the Gulf of Mexico.
Its top winds were 70mph early on Tuesday, centred about 560 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
With Zeta still drenching the northern Yucatan, the governor of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, Carlos Joaquin, warned that “nobody should be on the streets … you shouldn’t go out any more” until the storm passes.
Some boats which normally carry tourists in Cancun took refuge in a nearby lagoon channel, anchored among the mangroves to avoid the battering wind, waves and storm surge.
Boat captain Francisco Sosa Rosado noted they had to perform the same manoeuvre barely three week ago, when the area was hit by the even stronger Hurricane Delta, which made landfall with top winds of 110mph.
“With Delta, the gusts of wind were very strong – the anchor lines were at risk of breaking,” Mr Sosa Rosado said. “I hope it won’t be as bad with this hurricane.”
Trees felled by Delta still litter parts of Cancun, stacked along roadsides and in parks. There is some concern they could become projectiles when Zeta blows through.
A number of stop lights around the vacation destination have still not been repaired since Delta.
Quintana Roo state officials reported nearly 60,000 tourists in the state.
They said 71 shelters were readied for tourists or residents who might need them, though the governor said he hoped it would not be necessary to move guests out of their hotels.
Zeta broke the record for the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed on November 29 2005. It is also the 11th hurricane of the season. An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms.
There have been so many storms this season that the hurricane centre has had to turn to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names.
Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone.
There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became an “unnamed named storm”.