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Tropical Storm Zeta could make direct hit on New Orleans as Category 1 hurricane

Zeta battered Mexico overnight before emerging over the Gulf of Mexico, where it is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall Wednesday.
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Tropical Storm Zeta emerged over the Gulf of Mexico early Tuesday and is taking aim at the Gulf Coast with a possible direct hit on New Orleans.

NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said that while the storm remains relatively weak compared to others this year, it could still down power lines and trees with 60-70 mph winds after making landfall on Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane.

Rain and powerful winds are expected to begin on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on Wednesday morning, he said.

By Wednesday night, Zeta could swamp the Mississippi coast with a storm surge of as much as 8 feet, he said.

Zeta lashed Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula overnight with 80 mph winds and heavy rains. As of Tuesday afternoon, the storm was 450 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving at 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Hurricane season and, when it strikes the U.S. mainland Wednesday, it is expected to break a record by becoming the 11th named storm to do so in one year, according to forecasters.

Louisiana has been hard hit by these storms in recent months: Zeta will be the fourth named storm — after Marco, Laura and Delta — to have made landfall in the state since August.

"It is important that everyone get their game plan together," tweeted Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday morning. "Make sure that you are prepared, that you monitor your local news and that you continue to heed the warnings of local officials."

Hurricane warnings are in effect for Morgan City, Louisiana to the Mississippi-Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metro New Orleans.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in Florida, and a tropical storm watch is in effect in Louisiana west of Morgan City to Intracoastal City. Residents of a stretch of coast from Louisiana to Florida are under a storm surge warning.