Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Louisiana as the storm’s Category 2-force winds battered homes and businesses on its path towards New Orleans.
Power was knocked out to thousands and roads were flooded near the coast as swells pushed 9ft of seawater inland, according to the Associated Press.
The hurricane made landfall around the sparsely-populated fishing village of Terrebone Bay, near Cocodrie, as heavy rains felled trees in the famous French Quarter as the eye of the storm passed around 6.30 pm CST.
About 230,000 of the state's 300,000 people without power were concentrated in New Orleans' metro area as winds reached 177 kph (110 mph), the AP reported.
Zeta strengthened to a Category 2 storm on Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of up to 100 mph, expected to strike the New Orleans area on Wednesday evening.
“Zeta is right at our doorstep,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said at a briefing on Wednesday. “It’s going to be a rough evening for Louisiana, particularly in the southeastern portion. I am confident we are well prepared for this storm.”
The governor warned that wind damage and power outages “could be extensive” as the fast-moving storm increases the risk of tornadoes in the region.
The state has deployed 1,500 National Guard service members, and hundreds of emergency responders were preparing to restore power in the early morning hours on Thursday.
Zeta is the 27th named storm from a historically busy season, which expires at the end of November.
The storm struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Monday as a hurricane before it was downgraded to a tropical storm and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico, where it regained strength as a Category 1.
National Weather Service forecasts have predicted sustained winds of 74 mph to 110 mph, with higher gusts, along the Gulf Coast from the New Orleans metro area through coastal Mississippi.
Only two to four inches of rain are expected, though “life-threatening inundation” from storm surges could bring several feet of water along low-lying coastal areas.
“The one blessing we have with Zeta is it’s moving remarkably fast for a hurricane,” the National Weather Service said in its afternoon update.