Zeta could be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and could bring storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts to areas from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
If it makes landfall in Louisiana, Zeta would become the fifth named storm to do so this year, setting a record.
Zeta on Sunday morning had sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving north at only 1 mph. The storm was about 295 miles southeast of Cozumel.
It is forecast to strengthen and to become a hurricane by early Tuesday.
Zeta is forecast to make landfall Wednesday between central Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle as a strong tropical storm.
“While the current NHC forecast indicates that the system should weaken below hurricane strength before landfall, users are reminded that strong tropical storms can still produce significant storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts along the northern Gulf Coast” the National Hurricane Center said Sunday.
On Saturday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said state officials were monitoring the new system.
Zeta could be near or at hurricane strength when it approaches the Yucatan state in Mexico by late Monday morning.
A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels along the immediate coast in the Hurricane Watch area near and to the north of where the center makes landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from Tulum to Rio Lagartos and Cozumel, Mexico.
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours. A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
Could set record for Louisiana storms
If Zeta makes landfall in Louisiana, it would be the fifth named storm to do so this season. That would be a new record for that state for the most landfalls in a season.
Also, it would tie the record for most landfalls in any state for a season (Florida in 2005).
These stats only count for one landfall per storm per state.
Zeta also would be the 11th named storm to make landfall in the continental US this season, which is the most in one year. Previous storms were Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Marco, Sally, Beta and Delta.
It is unusual for multiple storms to hit the same spot in the same season, but it happens.
For instance, Frances and Jeanne both hit the southern end of Hutchinson Island in Florida in 2004. Harvey hit Louisiana in 2017 relatively close to where Cindy had come ashore.
Two storms have made landfall within 30 miles of each other, including Hermine and Colin in 2016 in Florida, Ike and Edouard in 2008 in Texas, and Katrina and Cindy in 2005 in Louisiana.