Update | Zeta becomes a hurricane as it nears Yucatan, heading for US
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Zeta strengthened to a hurricane Monday afternoon as it continued on a track for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula resorts and then likely move on for a possible landfall on the central United States Gulf Coast at midweek.
Zeta — the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season — was centred about 105 miles southeast of Cozumel island Monday afternoon, the US National Hurricane Center said.
It had maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.
The hurricane was moving northwest at around 10 miles per hour after being nearly stationary over the weekend.
Forecasters said Zeta was expected to move over the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday before heading into the Gulf of Mexico and then approach the US Gulf Coast by Wednesday, though it could weaken by then.
Trees felled by Hurricane Delta barely three weeks earlier still litter parts of Cancun, stacked along roadsides and in parks.
There is concern they could become projectiles when Zeta scrapes across the peninsula.
There are still a number of stoplights around the vacation destination that have not been repaired since Delta.
Local authorities are taking the storm seriously, but with a distinctly less alarmed tone than when Delta strengthened to a Category 4 storm off the coast.
Quintana Roo state suspended alcohol sales Monday and Governor Carlos Joaquín González said everyone should be off the streets by Monday afternoon.
The forecast track would have Zeta hitting Cozumel and striking the mainland just south of Playa del Carmen.
Delta made landfall October 7 between Playa del Carmen and Cancun winds of 110 miles per hour.
The government was still handing out aid, including sheet roofing, to Yucatan residents hit by Hurricane Delta and Tropical Storm Gamma earlier this month.
Zeta had been dawdling Sunday because it was trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
The hurricane center said Zeta could bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimetres) of rain to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba, before drenching the central US Gulf Coast.
The storm could make landfall anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said.
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