JBE hurricane press conference 102620

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020 discussed Hurricane Zeta, which is expected to hit southeast Louisiana on Wednesday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday Hurricane Zeta is expected to plow into southeast Louisiana Wednesday as a category one storm and mostly be a wind event.

Edwards said 2-4 inches of rain is expected, and possibly more in some areas, and that state residents need to pay attention to developments.

"The biggest threat as of now is damage from the wind," he told reporters. "We all need to be weather ready."

Forecasters said Monday Zeta is expected to make landfall between Cocodrie and Port Fourchon with winds of around 75 miles per hour.

They said there is an increasing risk of storm surge, heavy rainfall, damaging winds and tornadoes from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.

The governor said he issued an emergency declaration earlier in the day – his eighth of the year – in anticipation of the storm, including orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

A state of emergency allows agencies to use state resources to aid in storm response efforts.

"The good thing and the bad thing is we have had a lot of practice this year," Edwards said of the latest weather threat.

On its current path, Hurricane Zeta would be the fifth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana, which is the most since record-keeping began in 1851, said Barry Keim, Louisiana's state climatologist.

The potential for more severe weather was on the governor's mind Monday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the formal opening of a wider stretch of Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge.

Edwards told reporters then that, while the path of Zeta was moving a little east and a little west, Louisiana residents should take note.

"We believe by Wednesday night we will either have a tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in southeast Louisiana," he said Monday morning.

"Please don't let your guard down."

As they have throughout the summer, members of the National Guard are getting into position to assist with preparations before and assistance after the storm.

Edwards said 1,150 guard members have been activated.

The governor has spent much of the past few months holding press conferences before and after hurricanes, including hurricanes Laura and Delta that did heavy damage to the Lake Charles area and other parts of southwest Louisiana.

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane, left an estimated $12 billion in damages and Hurricane Delta arrived in nearby Creole six weeks later, triggering flooding and other problems for weather-weary residents.

Edwards said 3,587 people remain in shelters -- mostly hotels -- largely because of Hurricane Laura and a small number from Hurricane Delta.

He said 41 people are in the mega shelter in Alexandria, which serves as sort of a processing center.

Edwards said he is grateful Hurricane Zeta is not headed for southwest Louisiana, especially after hurricanes Laura and Delta defied the odds and struck less than 20 miles apart after roaring through the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Laura especially upended the lives of thousands of citizens, with widespread power outages and the loss of running water.

The New Orleans area was squarely in the line of Hurricane Sally until it veered east shortly before it arrived on the Alabama Gulf Coast in mid-September.

Aside from hurricanes Laura and Delta Tropical Storm Cristobal and Tropical Storm Marco made landfall in the state.

The state plans to halt testing for the coronavirus in five health regions on Tuesday and Wednesday because of weather concerns.

Those regions are New Orleans, the Baton Rouge area, south central Louisiana, Acadiana and the Northshore.

State officials took similar steps before Hurricane Laura arrived on Aug. 27, sparking concerns that the lack of testing and turmoil from the storm could trigger a spike in cases of the virus.

Louisiana has long been a national leader in COVID-19 cases per capita – the illness caused by the virus.

Edwards said any state office closings will be announced on Tuesday.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.