Zeta roars out of U.S. Gulf of Mexico with damaging winds, storm surge


Updates with latest intensity, position of storm

Oct 28 (Reuters) - Hurricane Zeta was poised to crash into Louisiana on Wednesday with a "life-threatening storm surge" and winds that will reach far inland, the state's sixth lashing this year from a Gulf Coast storm.

Zeta was about 220 miles (355 km) from the mouth of the Mississippi River on Wednesday morning, heading north at 18 mph with an expected afternoon landfall. Its winds slipped to 90 mph (150 kph) but could restrengthen ahead of landfall, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Zeta will hit the Louisiana coast as a "significant hurricane," said NHC forecaster Daniel Brown. "Strong winds are likely to spread well inland along the northern Gulf coast this evening and tonight."

It will bring a storm surge of up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River, in Mississippi, the NHC said. Rains of 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) are expected from Gulf Coast to the central Appalachians, the NHC said.

New Orleans halted city and transit services and advised residents living outside the state's protective levee system to leave for higher ground. Coastal and low-lying communities along the state's Gulf Coast called for mandatory evacuations.

Oil and gas producers have evacuated 157 offshore production facilities and shut wells producing more than 900,000 barrels of oil and 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Louisiana and Alabama issued state emergency orders and the Trump administration declared an emergency that provides additional federal resources to Louisiana.

Some 1,400 members of the Louisiana National Guard were standing by to help with recovery once the storm passed through, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said.

The state has set up storehouses of food, water and other emergency supplies in 16 parishes. More than 200 floodgates, out of 689, had been closed to prevent flooding.

A Louisiana landfall would make Zeta the fifth named storm to directly strike the state this year after Cristobal, Marco, Laura and Delta. Tropical Storm Beta went ashore over the border in Texas, bringing winds and flooding rains.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba and Gary McWilliams; editing by John Stonestreet and Alistair Bell)

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