NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Leaving millions in the dark, Zeta continued to tear through the South as a tropical storm Thursday morning after making landfall in Louisiana the day before as a strong Category 2 hurricane.
At least three people died and more than 2 million homes across the South were without power Thursday morning as Zeta, which weakened to a tropical storm after reaching the coastline Wednesday afternoon, raced from tearing up Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia overnight to closing in on Tennessee and the Carolinas with its heavy winds and drenching rains.
All along Zeta’s path, roofs were torn from houses, trees were ripped from the ground and powerlines were left dangling in the wind.
In New Orleans overnight, city officials warned residents not to travel outside their houses because of the numerous downed trees and powerlines, after a 55-year-old man was found electrocuted after reportedly swiping at a downed line. The man’s identity was not immediately disclosed.
In Biloxi, a 58-year-old Alabama man drowned Wednesday night after filming the storm as it came ashore. After sending footage to his sister, Leslie Richardson reportedly got in his car to drive away but the wind and waves were already overtaking the road. He called 911 around 7:30 p.m., but the water was already too high for local authorities to reach him in military-style vehicles.
The water on U.S. 90 by then was already to the hoods of the vehicles, according to a Times-Picayune report. The man told police he was going to get out of his car and walk, as his car was already beginning to float away. Police lost contact with Richardson after that until after 9:30, when a guest in a hotel spotted a man floating through water from their balcony. The hotel guest attempted to administer first aid, but it was too late. Richardson was pronounced dead at the scene.
The third reported death as of Thursday morning was in Cherokee County, Georgia, after a tree reportedly fell on a man inside a house.
The storm first made landfall near Cocoderie, Louisiana, a fishing village roughly 85 miles southeast of New Orleans in Terrebonne Parish. Hurricane Gustav made landfall in Cocoderie in September 2008 and Hurricane Matthew hit very close by in October 2004.
Louisiana was hard hit by Zeta, the fifth hurricane to hit the state this season. The storm roared from Cocoderie through New Orleans and the surrounding area, where it tore down trees and power lines. The causeway bridge over Lake Pontchartrain and U.S. 90 were closed during the storm because of high water and strong winds.
“Zeta has left hazards like flooded roads, downed power lines and displaced wildlife in our communities that no one should take lightly,” Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted Thursday morning. “Now is not the time to go sightseeing. Everyone needs to remain vigilant, continue to listen to local officials and be safe.”
On Thursday morning, Jefferson Parish officials asked residents to stay home and limit hot water usage as officials assess the full damage from the storm. The warm water usage limit was put in place because the parish’s water plant was running on a generator and using more warm water could strain the system.
Roughly 25 people had to be evacuated and one person was injured Wednesday night in Gretna, outside of New Orleans, after an apartment building collapsed, according to a report from local NBC affiliate WDSU.
In New Orleans, one person was hospitalized after a roof collapsed in their building. The lights were out throughout the French Quarter, leaving even Bourbon Street in the dark.
The storm was particularly harsh in Grand Isle, a barrier island in Jefferson Parish that has been knocked around by every storm this season, where roofs were torn from houses.
“We’re really getting beat. We’re looking at wind over 100 [mph] for sure,” Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle told WDSU during an interview as Zeta’s eye moved past the island.
By the time Zeta roared out of Louisiana, almost half a million homes were in the dark. The fast-moving storm passed quickly into Mississippi and Alabama from there.
As Zeta moved through the mid-South and into the eastern states, Atlanta came under a tropical storm warning for the second time ever, according to a report from the Weather Channel. The first time was in 2017 when Hurricane Irma formed off the coast of Florida.
Zeta swept through Georgia with the same ferocity as it had the states left in its wake, taking down trees and powerlines with strong winds and drenching rains and leaving a million homes without power.