National Safety Updates: Hurricane Zeta is Now Headed Towards U.S. Gulf Coast

Zeta made landfall in Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane on Monday night and is projected to make its second landfall in Louisiana. Meanwhile in the West, two new wildfires were sparked on Monday in Orange County, causing more than 90,000 to evacuate.

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Zeta is Headed Towards U.S. Gulf Coast, Residents Urged to Prepare

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Zeta made landfall Monday night along the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1 hurricane, bringing with it 80 mph winds. Zeta has since weakened to a tropical storm and is now headed towards the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Weather Channel reports that the storm may make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane along the Louisiana coast by Wednesday.

Hurricane warnings are in place for “Morgan City, Louisiana to the Mississippi-Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metro New Orleans” according to NBC News. Hurricane-force winds may arrive by late Wednesday with storm surge predictions being up to six feet in areas across the Gulf Coast. 

[ Read:  The Safety.com Guide to Hurricane Preparedness ]

The moisture from Zeta combined with a low pressure system moving east is projected to bring rainfall to a large swath of the South and East with potential flash flooding. Gov. John Bel Edwards in a Tweet Tuesday morning urged residents to have a plan in place: “It is important that everyone get their game plan together. Make sure that you are prepared, that you monitor your local news and that you continue to heed the warnings of local officials.”


Tropical Storm Zeta Forms, Current Track and Predictions

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Tropical Storm Zeta formed on Sunday and is the 27th named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Zeta is currently southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, moving northwest at 9 mph according to the National Hurricane Center’s 8:00 a.m. update. Zeta is forecast to make two landfalls, one along the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday night and another along the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday (The Weather Channel).

[ Read:  The 5 Most Devastating October Hurricanes of All Time ]

Currently, a Hurricane Warning is in effect for offshore waters of the Caribbean/SW Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (NHC). Parts of the Yucatan Peninsula may see up to 3 feet of storm surge and damaging winds. Tropical-storm-force winds are forecasted to reach the Gulf Coast by Wednesday.

While Zeta stalled on Sunday, the storm could set new records. If the storm makes landfall in Louisiana, it will set a new state record for most landfalls seen in one season, tying with Florida. 

[ Read:  How to Buy Hurricane Supplies During COVID-19 ]

Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana is cautioning residents ahead of the storm but also saying they’re prepared. “The storm is expected to make landfall somewhere on the Gulf Coast by midweek…We will once again find solutions for this potential threat while we work to help other areas of the state impacted by Laura and Delta. If Zeta does become a serious threat, we’re ready to ramp up our actions as a state to meet the needs of our people and communities”.


East Troublesome Fire Grows, Burning More Than 170,000 Acres

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The East Troublesome Fire in Colorado became the second largest in Colorado history, burning more than 170,000 acres. According to The Denver Post, the fire grew about 150,000 acres since Wednesday morning, which reportedly, from its previous 19,000 acres. Residents in surrounding communities and areas were urged to evacuate right away through a bulletin by Larimer County’s Sheriff Office, shared by KUSA-TV 9 News: “Evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible. Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business”. The East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire are now about 11 miles apart, and firefighters are preparing in case they merge. 

Per AirNow’s report around 8 a.m. Friday morning, the East Troublesome Fire is only 5% contained. Becky Bolinger, a climatologist with Colorado’s Climate Center at CSU told KUSA-TV 9 News, “This is not normal”. “It seemed so incredibly rare that we could have a fire reach 200,000 acres…and then to have one just increase 100,000 acres in a day,” said Bolinger referencing both large fires.

[ Read: The Safety.com Guide to Wildfire Recovery Resources ]

It is believes that the weather, combined with wind and wood for fuel, contributed to helping the East Troublesome Fire grow. Snow is in the forecast for this weekend, with temperatures expected to drop very low, even into the teens for Denver early next week, according to The Weather Channel. While the snow may help firefighters, it may not completely extinguish them. 

Noel Livingston, an Incident Commander, told The Weather Channel on Thursday, “Today’s mission is going to be on life safety, it’s going to be on evacuations and ensuring people are out of the way of future fire growth and it’s going to be on protection of communities and protection of structures and residents that are currently at risk.” Strong but caring words in a difficult time for impacted communities.


Rounds of Snow Set Records in the Midwest as Wildfires Continue in the West

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Rounds of snow for parts of the Rockies, northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and New England established new records in these regions. Minneapolis-St. Paul saw 7.9 inches of snow on Tuesday, the most ever recorded this early in the year, according to The Weather Channel. This was also the most snowfall for the Twin Cities in more than 100 years with the last record of 5.5 inches in October of 1905, according to the StarTribune. 

Minnesota’s State Patrol reported hundreds of crashes: “493 crashes [and] 614 vehicles off the road,” according to the StarTribune. Snow is also forecast to dip down into the Southern Plains by early next week, a region that doesn’t usually see snow until November or December.

[ Read: Winter Weather Driving Safety ]

In the West, wildfires continue to burn with the Camera Peak Fire exceeding 200,000 acres, but it was 51% contained, according to a Tuesday report from The Coloradoan. Air resources have been deployed to help douse the fire. Human cause is suspected for the start of the fire. 

Strong winds stirred the southside of the CalWood fire on Tuesday, causing it to grow over 9,800 acres late Tuesday, according to The Boulder Daily Camera. Currently, it is 21% contained.

Meanwhile, Epsilon strengthened to a hurricane Tuesday night, becoming the 10th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Season. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and is moving at 14 mph, per a Wednesday morning update from the National Hurricane Center. Epsilon is on track to brush past Bermuda, coming close on Thursday but no major impacts are in the forecast.


7.5 Magnitude Earthquake Triggered Tsunami Warning for Alaska on Monday

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A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Sand Point on Monday afternoon, spurring a tsunami warning that was later downgraded and lifted. According to NBC News, the first quake was followed by “at least eight aftershocks” within the first hour. Sand Point is located on Popof Island, off the Alaskan Peninsula. 

The earthquake reached 25 miles deep, but no damage was reported. Residents of Homer, Alaska were issued a mandatory evacuation to move to higher ground however, the only recorded wave activity was of over two feet.

[ Read: How to Keep Your Family Safe During an Earthquake ]

Candace Nielsen shared a video of her, her children, and pets during the earthquake. “We are getting very accustomed to these earthquakes, and I’ve learned to just accept that this is what we have to endure when we decide to live between volcanoes and an active plate,”Nielsen told CBS News. Jeanette Piniones Navales told CNN that this was the sixth tsunami warning she’d experienced while living in Kodiak. 

A tsunami advisory was issued for Hawaii, but no warnings or advisories were issued for states along the West Coast. NOAA explains that a tsunami warning is issued when there’s a “tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring.” Those in the area of the warning should seek higher ground and follow local orders.


New Wildfires Erupt Throughout Colorado and Utah

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Eric Lutzens/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images / Contributor / GettyImages

Over the weekend, four new wildfires started in Colorado and Utah. The CalWood Fire of Boulder County, Colorado started on Saturday and has grown to almost 9,000 acres. “This is actually the biggest wildfire in Boulder County history, “ said Chief Mike Wagner of Boulder County Sheriff’s Office to CNN. Air resources were planned over the weekend, but the weather did not permit. Per The Coloradoan’s Sunday 8:01 p.m. update, the fire only 15% of the fire has been contained.

According to CNN, twenty-six homes have been destroyed and about 3,000 people have been placed under evacuation orders. Shannon Kiss thought she and her daughter were going to have to evacuate after smoke from the fire began to enter their home. “We went outside and the ash was hitting our face,” said Kiss to USA Today. Fortunately, the family was able to stay safely at their house.

[ Read West Coast Wildfires: What to Do If Your Home Is at Risk ]

The Lefthand Canyon Fire near Ward, Colo. started on Sunday, burning hundreds of acres but has since been completely contained.

Meanwhile, in Utah, the Range and Fire Canyon fires both started on Saturday as well. The Range Fire, located near Orem, Utah, has grown to 3,000 acres, while the Fire Canyon Fire has burned more than 1,400 acres. Both are already being contained. 

In the coming days, winds are expected to increase for the Rockies with rain forecast for Colorado and Utah over the weekend, according to ABC News. Across the Northern Plains, Rockies, and Upper Midwest, snow is in the forecast through Thursday.


Cameron Peak Fire Becomes Largest in Colorado History

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Burning almost 30,000 acres in one day, the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer, Colo. is now the largest recorded in the state’s history, CPR News reports. The fire, started on August 13th, is currently only 56% contained. Just yesterday, the fire shifted East, with wind gusts between 30 and 70 mph. One recorded gust reached 76 mph. 

“The wind [was] coming from the [W]est and pushed the fire toward the [E]ast quite rapidly today,” said Russell Danielson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Boulder. “It has moved anywhere from 11 to 15 miles eastward, which is pretty remarkable.” The Cameron Peak Fire has surpassed the Pine Gulch Fire, burning more than 164,000 acres versus the previous record of 139,007 acres.

Residents in surrounding communities like Lory State Park and Masonville have been put under mandatory evacuation. While there have been no reported deaths or injuries, the fire has destroyed or impacted at least 99 buildings. According to The Coloradoan, air assistance has been planned for today if the weather permits.

While cooler weather is expected to settle into the area today and Friday, dry conditions and winds are still in the forecast and could worsen the fire. This fire has continued to burn despite recent snow this past week and an early snowstorm back in September. The Red Cross is working with displaced families to provide shelter (CNN).


Record Heat and Strong Winds Push Through the West and Midwest

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Red Flag warnings are in place for a number of states across the West and Midwest as record temperatures and gusty winds are forecast for today and over the next couple of days for parts of California, according to ABC News. Strong winds coupled with dry weather make conditions ripe for the ability of wildfires to spread. 

Currently a number of large and small fires are still burning across several western states, including the Jackalope Fire of Roberts County, TX, covering 11,520 acres. Record temperatures are likely for parts of Texas and New Mexico. The San Diego Brown Field Airport set a record of 100 degrees yesterday and Phoenix is projected to hit its 144th day of temperatures at or above 100 degrees. From northern to southern California, temperatures are predicted to rise with winds potentially gusting up to 40 mph.

[ Read: How to Return Home Safely After a Wildfire ]

Relief is in sight during the weekend for parts of the Midwest and East Coast with a cold front dipping down from Alberta, Canada. Temperatures are forecast to drop into the lower 40s for parts of the East, bringing in some fall chill, according to The Weather Channel.


Hurricane Delta Leaves Behind Flooding, Damage, and Power Outages Across the South

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Hurricane Delta made landfall Friday evening near Creole, La. as a Category 2 storm. At landfall, Delta had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and led to more than 9 feet of storm surge in certain coastal areas of Louisiana. Lake Charles was hard-hit, seeing more than 15 inches of rain, according to CBS News. “#Delta has left hazards like flooded roads, downed power lines and displaced wildlife in our communities that no one should take lightly,” tweeted Gov. John Bel Edwards on Saturday.

One 86-year old man has died from a fire sparked from refueling a generator in a shed. Gov. Edwards is urging residents to be careful and cautious while using generators. About 700,000 power outages were reported in Louisiana on Saturday with tens of thousands reporting outages across Texas and Mississippi (NBC News, CNN). Georgia and South Carolina also saw power outages with several tornado warnings issued from Delta’s remnants.

Recovery efforts are underway with the Louisiana National Guard and numerous volunteers assisting residents impacted by the storm. Some areas impacted by Hurricane Laura are undergoing recovery from Delta as well… In a statement shared by WDSU 6 News, Edwards mentions how inspired he feels to know volunteers are coming together to help each other during this difficult time.


Hurricane Delta Hits Mexico as a Category 2, on Its Way to US

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Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday morning at 5:45 a.m. CST as a Category 2 storm, according to CNN. The hurricane made landfall south of Cancun, Mexico. Many tourists and residents in parts of the Yucatan Peninsula evacuated while some hunkered down in shelters to ride out the storm. CBS News reports toppled trees and power outages in resort areas of the northeastern coast. The storm surge threat is up to 12 ft. in some areas.

Hurricane Delta saw a rapid wind speed increase on Tuesday, topping out at 145 mph as speeds increased 85 mph over the course of a day. Now a Category 2 storm, making landfall is believed to have contributed to the storm’s weakening. But U.S. residents are warned to not take this storm lightly as it’s predicted to re-strengthen to Category 4 status by Friday.

Tracking models forecast Delta to make landfall in Louisiana by Friday afternoon. Both Louisiana and Alabama have declared a State of Emergency with evacuations already underway. Governor Ivey gave a video update for Alabama residents: “While we are not currently in the projected direct path of Delta, this storm is already proving to be a much stronger storm than Sally” (WFSA-12 News). “As residents along the Gulf Coast know all too well, these storms are unpredictable, and I strongly encourage everyone to take Hurricane Delta seriously,” said Ivey.


Hurricane Delta Strengthens Into a Category 4 Storm

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Forming in the Caribbean early Monday, Hurricane Delta’s wind speeds significantly increased from 40 mph to 130 mph on Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center reports that Delta is moving west-northwest at about 16 mph and is south of western Cuba.

Tracking models show that Delta is moving towards the Yucatan Peninsula, where Tropical Storm Gamma currently sits. A Hurricane Warning is planned to go into effect for the Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday night with a storm surge warning. Heavy rainfall and flash flooding is in the forecast for parts of the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and the Yucatan.

Hurricane Delta may make landfall in the U.S. on Saturday, potentially impacting coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. The place of landfall is still uncertain. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana is warning coastal residents to prepare ahead of time for the storm as the NHC advises “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions.” According to ABC News, “If Delta makes landfall in the U.S., it would be the tenth named storm to make landfall in one season, which has never happened before in recorded history.”


Tropical Storm Delta Will Likely Make U.S. Landfall as a Hurricane

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Tropical Storm Delta is now the Atlantic’s 25th named storm as it formed Monday morning in the Caribbean Sea. Tracking models predict that Delta will become a Category 1 or 2 hurricane as early as Tuesday as it moves closer to the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

The tracking cone for Tropical Storm Delta extends as far west as Texas to as far east as the Florida panhandle, showing a lot of potential for the storm to track further west or east. Delta could make landfall as a hurricane in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or the Florida panhandle later this week.

New Orleans WWLTV reports that Tropical Storm Delta currently has sustained winds of about 40 mph and is moving west-northwest at about 9 mph. Jamaica, Cuba, and the Cayman Islands are currently under a Tropical Storm Warning with hurricane conditions expected for parts of Cuba (NWS).

Tropical Storm Gamma brought heavy rainfall to parts of southeastern Mexico and has claimed six lives according to The Orlando Sentinel. More rainfall and potential flooding is expected for the Yucatan Peninsula through the first half of the week.


High Temperatures and Gusty Winds Could Worsen California Fires

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The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings for parts of California, including the Santa Lucia Mountains, East Bay Hills, Interior Mendocino, and additional areas.

Residents in the affected areas should anticipate warm, dry, and gusty conditions which could potentially worsen fires.

According to CBS, overnight Thursday, these dry and windy conditions were like fuel for the Glass Fire as it now threatens the town of Angwin, CA. Brian Newman, a Behavior Analyst for Cal Fire, notes, “In this area where…[there’s] a mixture of grass, brush and conifer timber — all of it is critically dry….With the excessively dry winter we had mixed with the long summer we’ve had—a lot of heat and no [precipitation] over the last five months has led to critically dry conditions in the fuel moisture for burning”. 

Record temperatures have also been reported across the state with Long Beach Airport reaching 105 degrees on Wednesday—surpassing its record of 100 back in 1992 (The Washington Post). Death Valley saw a scorching temperature of 130 degrees back in August, potentially being one of the highest recorded on Earth in almost a century.

With these high temperatures, some California residents are being asked to conserve energy to help prevent blackouts. As this is a difficult time for many residents across the state, the American Red Cross is providing relief through designated disaster shelters that are ready to help.


3 Northern California Wildfires Have Merged, Forcing Residents to Flee

CALISTOGA, CA – SEPTEMBER 30: The Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-128 on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020 in Calistoga, CA. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Spreading fires in Northern California are consuming homes, structures, and even parts of Napa County’s wine country. TODAY reports that three major fires have recently converged into one, endangering more than 20,000 people. Currently, there are more than 19,000 firefighters who are still battling five of the largest California wildfires on record.

Since Sunday, two major fires have broken out in Northern California—the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma countries and the Zogg Fire of Shasta County. NBC Bay Area reports that the Glass Fire has destroyed dozens of structures, including the Chateau Boswell Winery in St. Helena. Meanwhile, according to CNN, the Zogg Fire has destroyed over 140 structures. Twenty-nine deaths total have been reported from both fires. As of today, the Zogg Fire is 9% contained while the Glass Fire is only 2% contained.

While fires are common in California, leaving one’s home is something that’s difficult for anyone to get used to. One Sonoma resident interviewed by TODAY has evacuated his home more than once and said that it’s become more common over the past three years. Susan Gorin told USA Today she had to leave her home in Santa Monica around 1 a.m. on Monday, seeing “flames [singe] three nieghboring houses as she fled”. 

High temperatures, little rain, and gusty winds are several factors that have contributed to these fires. While this year might seem like the worst in history with 8,100 wildfires since January, 2017 saw 9,270 reported wildfires. However, in 2020 there has been a record-setting number of acres that have burned compared to previous years. Currently, more than 3.7 million acres have burned compared to the average of 739,459 fires over the past five years (KCRA).


This Year’s 25th Named Storm Will Likely Form Within 5 Days

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According to the National Hurricane Center, a new tropical disturbance in the Caribbean has a 70% chance of developing into a tropical storm over the next five days, making it a possible Hurricane Gamma candidate. 

This hurricane season has made history as the NHC has resorted to using Greek names for only the second time ever. The first time, in 2005, six Greek names were used for tropical storms and hurricanes — this year, two Greek names have been used so far, but hurricane season isn’t over.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season typically peaks around September 10, with the season ending on November 30. The average number of storms per season is 12, but this year we’ve already reached 23, with two months remaining.

For the month of October, the NHC shows that the origin of storm development generally shifts closer to home in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico as the waters are cooling in the Atlantic yet are still warm in the Caribbean and the Gulf. These storms have tended to track north and then east.

While things have been quiet recently, records show that October can still be an active month. Hurricane Michael (2018), Hurricane Matthew (2016), and Hurricane Sandy (2012) are several October formations that made landfall in the U.S. The Weather Channel also notes that Florida is the state that’s most likely to experience landfall hurricanes in October.

Jalesa Campbell

Safety.com’s National Safety Tracker provides live updates on major safety threats to the U.S., including hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, snow and ice storms, wildfires and smoke, extreme heat and cold advisories, public security threats, and more.


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Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.