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Hurricane Zeta Kills Three, Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Without Power

Aubri Juhasz
A building at the corner of Dauphine Street and Franklin Avenue was flattened during Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of Louisianans are without power and dealing with wind damage from Hurricane Zeta on Thursday morning. One person in Louisiana is dead.

Zeta smashed ashore yesterday evening with 110 mph winds — almost a Category 3 storm. Because it was moving so quickly, it carried much of its intensity far inland, downing trees and power lines across Southeast Louisiana.

At least three people have died, in Southeast Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia according to authorities. 

In New Orleans, a 55-year-old man was electrocuted after he came in contact with one of the many downed power lines throughout the city. 

If you come across a downed power line, officials urge you to keep your distance. 

In Biloxi, Mississippi, 58-year-old Leslie Richardson from Alabama drowned while watching the storm at Broadwater Marina.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Thursday morning press conference that it’s still too early to say anything specific about the damage across Southeast Louisiana.

"The closer you get to the coast, the more destruction there is to structures, including homes," he said.

Credit Travis Lux / WWNO
John Vernon Severin sweeps up leaves outside his home in Bayou St. John after Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

While the storm was still passing, rescuers responded to a trailer that was flipped over. The people inside survived with broken bones. The search-and-rescue and clean-up efforts continue today, though Edwards said they’re hindered in Grand Isle by flooding of LA-1 and an oyster vessel that was on the roadway.

"We don’t know exactly what the need is out there today," he said. "You don’t only go to places where you’ve received calls for help … otherwise you miss people."

Credit Paul Braun / WRKF
Gov. John Bel Edwards (center) and Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell (right), head of the La. National Guard, walk to a Thursday morning press conference after Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

Zeta left the city as quickly as it hit – leaving a trail of tree limbs and downed power lines around metro New Orleans. The storm tossed riverboats and barges on the Mississippi River and damaged buildings and levees in the southern part of the state. Mississippi saw the worst of the impacts, with high surges all along the coast.

In the Upper 9th Ward, Sandra Allen and her family sat on the front porch and listened to a battery-powered radio as they waited for the power to come back on late Wednesday night. 

"It was real scary for awhile. Because the wind was like, whipping up the street and we was out here taking care of our neighbors and you know, whatever we can do," Allen said. 

Credit Aubri Juhasz / WWNO
A commercial building on the corner of Dauphine Street and Franklin Avenue was flattened during Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

Zeta's powerful winds appear as of Thursday morning to do have done the greatest damage across New Orleans.

In the Marigny, a commercial building on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Dauphine Street, across from The Franklin restaurant, was reduced to rubble. Three support columns were left standing.

Prior to the storm, the building appeared to be in-operational and in a state of disrepair.

Further down Franklin St., a large tree had fallen, snagging power lines and rendering the road impassable. Marigny residents are currently without power.

It’s unclear exactly how long homes and businesses in Southeast Louisiana will be without power, but Entergy spokesperson Lee Sabatini said it could be up to 10 days in some areas.

“When we look at our historical data when it comes to hurricanes of this size and this forecast, which is how we compare our estimates for power restoration, while every storm is different we can say that the duration of these outages for a Category 2 hurricane can be up to 10 days,” Sabatini said.

But the longest wait will only be for the areas worst hit by the storm, she added. Ninety percent of Entergy customers will get power back before then.

“Our goal is to restore as many customers as we can much quicker than that, but if we encounter accessibility issues or extensive damage being able to deliver power back to a customer’s home, that could take us significantly more time,” she said.

Credit Aubri Juhasz / WWNO
A tree is down outside Flora Gallery & Coffee Shop in the Marigny after Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

"We do follow a process when it comes to power restoration," Sabatini added. "The goal is to restore power to our critical services first. Hospitals and fire and police stations. Anything that helps the community get a semblance of normalcy back, and for safety purposes as well.

As of 11:30 a.m., around 399,000 Entergy customers were without power, Sabatini said. That's down from around 500,000 early Thursday morning.

Read or hear our full interview with Sabatini here.

Megan Koza Mitchell was among the lucky who still had power Thursday morning. 

"It was very noisy. Very, very noisy with my back tin roof flapping around. But otherwise, you know, we survived it pretty well," she said while cleaning up branches outside her house on Banks Street in Mid City. "It was scary when all the tree branches started coming down." 

Aside from the mess, though, Mitchell made out all right.

“I’ve cleaned up the backyard where my gigantic palm tree decided it would shed everything. And now I’m working on the front yard, hopefully to make sure it doesn’t go down into the catch basins which are very numerous on this street. ... Otherwise I guess we’re kind of back to normal.”

Credit Travis Lux / WWNO
Megan Koza Mitchel cleans up debris outside her house on Banks Street in Mid City after Hurricane Zeta. Oct. 29, 2020.

Update, 4:30 p.m.:

Officials continue to take stock of damage after Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Louisiana on Wednesday. Gov. John Bel Edwards is touring damage Thursday, and held a press conference with state and local officials at the Lakefront Airport in New Orleans.

He asked people not to go sightseeing as crews clean up. At least 400,000 people remain without power in Louisiana. Entergy and Cleco crews are working to repair lines but that could take days.

Congressman Garret Graves said that while the storm wasn’t as destructive as Laura and Delta earlier this fall, strong winds still caused widespread damage.

“This was a big storm,” Graves said of Zeta, which made landfall at 110 mph, just 1 mph short of Category 3. “We know that there are hundreds of thousands of people without electricity, without internet access and other utility issues.”

Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said 172,000 homes are still without power and a number of residents were displaced when an apartment complex collapsed. Officials have set up emergency centers for people who need power for oxygen tanks. Debris needs to be left on the curb.

Sheng recommends conserving water so as not to tax pumps.

In Lafitte, a casino boat hit a bridge. Officials have removed it.

Levees were breached in three places at Grand Isle.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said crews are out putting up stop signs at intersections, which should be treated like four-ways when lights are out. She said 125,000 are still without power in Orleans Parish.

“Please bear with us. Have patience, and we will get through this,” she said.

The National Guard has been activated. Edwards said at least 76 people are being housed in evacuee centers. Thousands more are still sheltering in hotels after previous hurricanes.

Officials are taking stock of whether any polling sites have been damaged ahead of next week’s presidential election. Drive-through COVID-19 testing sites will re-open Friday.

The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Peter T. Gaynor is expected to visit Louisiana on Friday.

City of New Orleans crisis cleanup hotline: 504-350-0788

Real time information on road conditions:

Sign up for Jefferson Parish alerts here.

If you want to report a downed tree limb to the City of New Orleans, call 311.

Downed power lines can be reported to your power provider.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

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