Hurricane kills 6, crumbles houses across Southeast
ATLANTA — Millions of people were without power and at least six were dead Thursday after Hurricane Zeta slammed into Louisiana and made a beeline across the South, leaving shattered buildings, thousands of downed trees and fresh anguish over a recordsetting hurricane season.
From the bayous of the Gulf Coast to Atlanta and beyond, Southerners used to dealing with dangerous weather were left to pick up the pieces once again just days ahead of an election in which early voting continued despite the storm.
In Atlanta and New Orleans, drivers dodged trees in roads and navigated intersections without traffic signals. In Lakeshore, Miss., Ray Garcia returned home to find a shrimp boat washed up and resting against its pilings.
As many as 2.6 million homes and businesses lost power across seven states, but the lights were coming back on slowly. The sun came out and temperatures dropped, but trees were still swaying as the storm’s remnants blew through.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state sustained catastrophic damage on Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, where Zeta punched three breaches in the levee. Edwards ordered the Louisiana National Guard to fly in soldiers to assist with search and rescue efforts and urged continued caution.
“Oddly enough, it isn’t the storms that typically produce the most injuries and the fatalities. It’s the cleanup efforts. It’s the use of generators. It’s the carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s the electrocution that comes from power lines. So, now is the time to be very, very cautious out there,” Edwards said.
Lines of cars stretched more than 20 deep at one of the few gas stations open in Marrero, La. The owner was using an industrial generator to run the pumps and accepting cash only.
Zeta weakened to a posttropical storm by Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The fastmoving storm was centered about 25 miles southwest of Cape May, N.J., and forecast to head eastnortheast over the open Atlantic.
North Carolina and southeastern Virginia were still being buffeted with gusty winds, but Zeta was moving along at 53 mph, meaning no single place was blasted too long.
Still, the latest punch from this historically busy hurricane season left people shaken.
Will Arute of New Orleans said it sounded like a bomb went off when part of a large oak snapped outside and crashed into his car and a corner of his home.
“I did not anticipate this to happen. It was pretty intense along the eyewall when it went through here,” he said.
Power poles broken by Hurricane Zeta line a road in Grand Isle, La. Zeta cut power to as many as 2.6 million homes and businesses before being downgraded to a posttropical storm.