Zeta has re-strengthened into a hurricane as Louisiana braces for the 27th named storm of a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season.
Landfall is expected south of New Orleans with life-threatening storm surge and strong winds expected along portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
Zeta raked across the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, striking as a hurricane, before weakening to a tropical storm.
Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, along the Mississippi coast to the Alabama border.
Early on Wednesday, the storm had sustained winds of 85mph and was centred 320 miles south-south-west of the Mississippi River’s mouth.
The centre of Zeta will approach the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday and make landfall in south-eastern Louisiana in the afternoon, according the National Hurricane Centre.
Zeta will move close to the Mississippi coast on Wednesday evening, and across the south-eastern and eastern United States on Thursday.
Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration ahead of the storm. He and Alabama governor Kay Ivey both declared emergencies, as did mayor Andrew Gilich in Biloxi, Mississippi. Mr Trump declared an emergency for Louisiana on Tuesday evening.
Zeta broke the record for the earliest 27th named Atlantic storm – set on November 29 2005 – and is the 11th hurricane of the season. An average season sees six hurricanes and 12 named storms.
Louisiana has been hit by two tropical storms and two hurricanes: Laura, blamed for at least 27 Louisiana deaths after it struck in August, and Delta, which exacerbated Laura’s damage in the same area weeks later.
New Orleans has been in the warning area for potential tropical cyclones seven times this year but has seen them veer to the east or west.