By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
CLANTON –Wednesday 5:30 pm, October 28, 2020
Unfortunately, Zeta continued to strengthen today and made landfall around 4 pm in southeast Louisiana with sustained winds of 110 mph. Zeta will produce impacts all the way to I20/59, including numerous downed trees with power outages, isolated flash flooding, some structural damage and potentially a few tornadoes. The good news is the threat of high wind and heavy rain will exit the state by 10 am Thursday.
Because of the higher wind speeds at landfall, increasing forward speed and interaction with an approaching upper level system, this will mean a larger wind field of tropical-storm-force winds (up to 55 mph) moving across the state tonight, including the Birmingham and Montgomery metro areas.
Unless an emergency, no one should travel after 8 pm through sunrise Thursday.
Although not every location in the shaded region in the graphic above will receive damage, there will be widespread damage with areas without power and/or trees across roads for 24 hours or longer.
Make sure you have flashlights with fresh batteries, phones are charged, and you can receive warning information from at least two sources that does NOT include an outdoor warning siren. If you have a weather radio, now would be a good time to change the batteries.
The Storm surge forecast along the coast continues to be 6-9 feet for Dauphin Island, with 4-6 feet for Mobile Bay and Gulf Shores, generally between 9 pm and 1 am. It should be noted this will not be a gradual but rapid storm surge.
The total rainfall forecast remains generally be 2-5 inches, with spots receiving up to eight inches in the southwest sections of the state. Due to the fast movement of the system, only brief flash flooding issues are expected.
A few tornadoes are possible tonight, especially south of a Livingston – Montgomery – Auburn line. However, there could also be a couple of tornadoes all the way to I20/59.
By Thursday afternoon, showers are still possible in north and northeast Alabama, but the remainder of the state will be dry. However, southwest winds of 10-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph are expected statewide. No rain is forecast through the remainder of the weekend and winds by Friday afternoon will increase to 10-20 mph with gusts to 25 mph.
Many injuries and some deaths occur during clean-up after significant wind events, especially those on ladders, roofs or other elevated surfaces. The gusty winds on Thursday afternoon and Friday will only make it more dangerous, so please use caution.