MIAMI — Tropical Storm Zeta rapidly strengthened overnight and is forecast to turn into a Category 1 hurricane sometime Monday. The storm is expected to near the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, bringing stormy conditions from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Zeta is moving toward the northwest near 9 mph with maximum sustained winds near 70 mph with higher gusts, according to the hurricane center. The storm is about 175 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and its tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the center.
Forecasters expect the storm will pick up speed and see additional strengthening until it moves over the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday, where it could make landfall.
On the forecast track, the center of Zeta will then move into the southern Gulf of Mexico, where conditions are conducive for re-strengthening, and make a turn to the north, forecasters said. Zeta is then forecast to approach the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, where it is expected to make a second landfall.
Zeta's forecast track is similar to Hurricane Delta's, which also struck the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico before hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast on Oct. 9.
But unlike Delta, which struck the Yucatan Peninsula and the U.S. Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane, increasing shear and cooler waters in the northern Gulf is expected to reduce Zeta's intensity before it reaches the northern Gulf Coast, forecasters said. That would keep the storm at or near Category 1 hurricane-level strength. There is a risk of storm surge, rain and wind from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, according to the hurricane center.
"Residents in these areas should monitor the progress of Zeta and updates to the forecast," forecasters wrote.
WHAT TYPE OF WEATHER WILL ZETA BRING?
Hurricane conditions, including strong winds, rain and dangerous storm surge up to three feet and tropical storm conditions are expected by late Monday within the hurricane warning area of the Yucatan Peninsula and the tropical storm warning area in Mexico from south of Tulum to Punta Allen and from west of Dzilam to Progreso.
Tropical storm conditions are also expected to occur within the Pinar del Rio area of western Cuba later Monday, which is also under a tropical storm warning.