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New Orleans, bayou region brace for Hurricane Zeta in storm-weary Louisiana

Greg Hilburn
Monroe News-Star

New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana's bayou region are under hurricane warnings as Hurricane Zeta bears down on the state's coast and remains on track for a Wednesday evening landfall.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he's asked President Trump for a federal pre-landfall disaster declaration. Edwards issued a state emergency declaration Monday.

"It's imperative people use time they have (Tuesday) and early (Wednesday morning) to prepare," Edwards said Tuesday afternoon.

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Ben Schott, chief meteorologist of the National Weather Service's New Orleans office, told USA Today Network: "The likelihood of a Category 1 hurricane at landfall is pretty high."

"If you live in southeastern Louisiana or coastal Mississippi you need to prepare for hurricane conditions," Schott said. "Even if it's a couple of miles per hour short of a hurricane, you can still get 80 to 90 mph gusts with 64 mph or more sustained winds."

Current projections have Zeta's center line just east of New Orleans, putting the city on the least dangerous side of the storm, but Schott and Edwards said a slight movement could place New Orleans in the most dangerous path of the storm.

"None of the modeling shows New Orleans out of the cone," Schott said. "I just don't want people to get complacent because New Orleans has been in the cone so many times this year and there have been so many false alarms."

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Schott also emphasized that scenario in a tweet: "It's reasonable to believe that the New Orleans metro area and the northshore get hit with the worst of this storm ... many of the latest models show this scenario."

Meanwhile, the governor said 3,606 evacuees from Hurricanes Laura and Delta are still being sheltered in a storm-weary state. Almost all of them are in hotels and 3,450 are from Laura, which made a devastating landfall in Cameron on Aug. 7.

More than 1,700 Louisiana National Guardsmen and women have been activated in advance of Hurricane Zeta.

Entergy Louisiana said it has mobilized 3,800 workers in preparation for Hurricane Zeta.

“We are prepared for the potential impacts that Zeta may bring,” said John Hawkins, vice president of distribution operations for Entergy in Louisiana. “We have a plan in place that we’ve put into practice several times this year, and this storm will be no different. I am confident that our crews, contractors and support personnel will do all they can to restore power safely and as quickly as possible."

Zeta will be the record fifth tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana in 2020.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1