Deadly Hurricane Zeta Breaks Records as Fifth Named Storm to Hit Louisiana
Zeta is the fifth named storm to clobber Louisiana this year and follows the especially devastating one-two punch of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in August and October. Around 3,600 people are still displaced following the two previous storms and most of them are living in six hotels in New Orleans, which took a direct hit from Zeta, CNN reported.
"It's one (storm) after the other. We're just a target. I told my friend they're zeroing in on us. They're looking for us," 71-year-old Laura evacuee Billy Ewing, who has been staying in New Orleans hotels since August, told CNN. "And we can't control it. What's the matter right now is we can't control anything. I'm not in control of what my status is. I'm not in control of where I live."
Zeta made landfall near the fishing village of Cocodrie, Louisiana around 4 p.m. Wednesday, The New York Times reported. It then tore through New Orleans and ripped along the Mississippi coast.
The storm killed at least one person, NBC News Bay Area reported. A 55-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line in New Orleans.
New Orleans had been in the projected path of six different storms this season, but they had all veered east or west. This time, the city's luck ran out and it took a direct hit.
"This is not a drill," Mayor LaToya Cantrell warned residents ahead of the storm, as The New York Times reported.
The storm cut out power to more than 500,000 people in Louisiana, and most of New Orleans was dark after it passed, according to NBC News Bay Area. More than 200 trees were downed, and one person was hospitalized with minor injuries after a structure collapsed.
Hurricane Zeta knocks out power on Bourbon Street. @FOX8NOLA https://t.co/sgu7JCzYuO— Garland Gillen (@Garland Gillen)1603929971.0
"Although we have made it through, we have been damaged, we have been hit," Cantrell said.
The storm was and is fast moving. This means that high winds were the biggest safety hazard, even blowing the roofs off of some houses, The New York Times reported. However, the advantage of the fast pace meant that it did not stall and pour rain in one place. The climate crisis is making storms wetter, and slow, wet storms have caused major flooding in recent years.
"It's not going to sit there and pound for hour after hour," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a briefing on Wednesday, as The New York Times reported. "It should move through the area relatively quickly."
However, this also means a wide range of the Southeast will feel its effects, CNN pointed out. Strong winds were projected to reach inland Mississippi and Alabama, while heavy rain was projected to pummel Georgia and the Carolinas Thursday.
Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported. However, it is still packing a punch. The NHC warned of wind gusts strong enough to down trees and cause power outages in northeastern Alabama, northern Georgia, the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia Thursday.
Here are the 4 AM CDT Key Messages for Tropical Storm #Zeta, which is racing across the southeastern United States… https://t.co/Yr7UBOTKMM— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)1603961604.0
As of 6:55 a.m., there were already more than 920,000 people without power in Georgia, WSB-TV 2 Atlanta reported.
Zeta is the earliest 27th named storm on record in an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season and the 11th hurricane, The Guardian reported. An average hurricane season has six hurricanes and 12 named storms. In addition to making storms wetter, the climate crisis is also making them more intense.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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