By Shaddi Abusaid, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga
A tropical storm watch has been issued for much of North Georgia as the Southeast braces for strong winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Zeta.
Zeta made landfall in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Monday evening as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. It briefly weakened to a tropical storm but regained Category 1 strength Wednesday morning as it surged through the Gulf of Mexico toward the U.S., according to forecasters.
The storm is expected to make landfall as a hurricane Wednesday afternoon along the southeastern Louisiana coast, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brian Monahan said.
The latest path shows Zeta will likely hit Georgia on Thursday morning with sustained winds of between 25 and 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Channel 2 meteorologists said wind gusts of up to 50 mph are possible along with torrential rain, flooding and the potential for isolated tornadoes.
Zeta is expected to move over Alabama as a tropical storm before it reaches Georgia early Thursday morning.
“We’re going to have a three- to four-hour window — let’s say about 4 a.m. tomorrow morning to about 8 a.m. tomorrow morning — where the weather is going to be really tough around here,” Monahan said Wednesday. “That’s going to be timed right through your morning commute.”
North Georgia can expect between 2 and 3 inches of rain, with as much as 4 inches possible in some areas north of I-20, according to the latest forecast.
While the brunt of the storm isn’t expected to reach North Georgia until early Thursday, scattered showers from Zeta have arrived Wednesday to make a mess of the morning commute.
“We’re going to get a bit of a break in the action around midday (Wednesday) and then another round of showers and a few embedded thunderstorms return in the late afternoon and evening,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.
A flash flood watch is scheduled to go into affect at 8 a.m. for all of North Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. The watch expires Thursday evening.
“We’re talking 30-to-50 mph with some occasional higher gusts,” Nitz said. “You combine that with the soggy soil from all of this rain and likely we are going to have numerous trees down.”
Those downed trees could lead to injuries, property damage and the possibility of widespread power outages, he warned.
The stormy weather will clear out of metro Atlanta by Friday morning, leaving behind a dry Halloween weekend with highs in the mid-60s.