The big news in this latest advisory package is that parts of Central Alabama are now under a Tropical Storm Warning through Thursday. While this doesn’t change the forecast of Zeta for our area, it does send a message that this will be an impactful storm for the region. The last time we had Tropical Storm Warnings this far north into the state was with Hurricane Nate in 2017.
First the particulars for Zeta as it continues to strengthen, it is now a category two storm with winds of 95 mph. It is still moving very quickly to the north at 17 mph with a shift to the northeast expected later today. It is still on track to make landfall on the SE Louisiana coast by sundown tonight.
Winds in excess of 100 mph, with storm surge upwards of 6-9 feet, heavy rainfall, and isolated tornadoes are all possible as the storm comes ashore. The most impactful weather will be along the Mississippi coast, to the right of the center of the storm. Depending on exact location and the storm’s structure, some hurricane force wind gusts could be felt as far east as the Alabama Gulf coast as the storm makes landfall.
The silver lining to Zeta is the fact that it’s moving so quickly, so the impacts will not linger over one area very long. This leads to our forecast for Central Alabama. Expect to see heavy rain start later tonight and wind picking up after midnight. Tropical Storm Warnings and Flash Flood Watches are posted for our counties south and east of the I-59 corridor, which looks to be to the right of the forecast track. In these areas, sustained winds of 40-50 mph with higher gusts are possible. Also, heavy rain that could lead to some isolated flooding is a threat, but a lower threat than wind damage. The general timing of these impacts looks to start a little before midnight and be done around sunrise time on Thursday (these times are estimates and may change).
Overall it’s important to focus on the impacts these conditions could bring. This looks to be a major wind event for our region. Winds at this magnitude can bring down shallow-rooted trees and power lines. Power outages are likely, damage to houses, mobile homes and other buildings is possible, roads may be impassable due to debris or flooding. The best thing to do is stay weather aware and have ways to get weather information quickly. Stay home in the morning and don’t venture out until conditions have improved. With the speed of the storm, that should happen by mid-morning on Thursday.
After all of that, our weather turns drier and cooler for Friday and the weekend ahead. And don’t forget, we fall back and end daylight saving time on Saturday night. So our sunrises and sunsets will be an hour earlier on Sunday. Temperatures remain cool, and for some downright cold, as we start next week.