A 55-year-old man was fatally electrocuted by a downed powerline in New Orleans Wednesday evening, becoming the first known casualty of Hurricane Zeta, a rare late-October storm that quickly tore through New Orleans and the surrounding area toppling trees, downing powerlines ripping off roofs with winds of over 100 miles per hour. Another death was reported in Biloxi, Miss. Wednesday night.
Zeta, which made its Gulf Coast landfall in Terrebonne Parish at 4 p.m. moved through New Orleans shortly before sunset, which means that most of the metropolitan area won’t be able to get a good look at the damage until this morning.
The state’s coastal areas got a powerful storm surge, but there were no apparent reports of flooding from rain.
Shortly before 8 p.m. New Orleans EMS reported the electrocution death of the 55-year-old man in the city’s Gert Town area.. “There are many hazards out there right now. Please continue to stay indoors,” the city’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness tweeted. A 55-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line.
“Although we have made it through, we have been damaged, we have been hit. So we are assessing the damage as best we can tonight,” New Orleans Mayor Cantrell said Wednesday night, according to an Associated Press report. She urged the public to let city officials and professional work crews do those assessments. “We do not want to lose another life,” she said.
On Twitter, the mayor warned residents to “STAY INSIDE: Can’t stress enough how dangerous the roads are right now in #NOLA. Widespread downed trees & power lines. Also, many traffic lights are out. If you MUST drive tonight, be extremely cautious & treat intersections with lights out as four-way stops.”
Officials from Entergy are also warning Louisianans to stay off the streets. “There is no way to know if a downed line or any other damaged electrical equipment is energized or not, so if you encounter any damaged equipment, keep your distance & call 1-800-9OUTAGE (800-968-8243),” Entergy New Orleans tweeted.
According to the Louisiana Public Service Commission’s power outage map, as of 10 p.m. Wednesday night, there were 493,938 customers without power and 2,219,402 people. In Plaquemines Parish, 94 percent of customers were without power, followed by Jefferson Parish at 83 percent, St. Bernard Parish at 81 percent, Orleans Parish at 78 percent, St. Charles at 70 percent, St. Tammany and Terrebone Parishes at 56 percent, St. John the Baptist Parish at 33 percent and Lafourche at 32 percent.
Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Southeast Louisiana, by Cocodrie, at 4 p.m. on Oct. 28 as a 95 knot, 110 MPH Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service. That’s the maximum wind speed of a Category 2 storm. A Category 3 storm has winds between 111 and 129 mph. According to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, Zeta’s maximum wind speed of 110 MPH made it the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States this late in the calendar year since a storm with the exact same windspeed hit South Carolina in 1899 on Halloween.
Zeta is the record 11th named storm to make landfall in the country this hurricane season and the seventh to Louisiana. It followed Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Sally, Beta and Delta.
The previous record year with the most named storms to come ashore in a given season was nine in 1916. Zeta is also the fifth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana in 2020, passing the previous calendar year record of four in 2005.