Hurricane Zeta moved swiftly through the South, but officials warned residents not to venture out too quickly on Thursday. “Please, leave it up — please, leave it up — to public safety officials to manage the damage caused by Hurricane Zeta,” Ms. Cantrell said. “We do not want to lose another life. It is unnecessary.”
Zeta pounded a region that had been left hobbled and exhausted by a long and punishing season that has been one of the most active in more than a decade. It was the fifth named storm to hit Louisiana this year, and the 27th so far in the Atlantic season.
The storm intensified in strength in the final hours before landfall, nearly growing into a Category 3 storm. Yet the region benefited from Zeta’s rapid pace of roughly 20 m.p.h., which meant the communities in its path were spared from the deluges delivered by previous storms that had been much more sluggish.
Zeta made landfall around 4 p.m. local time in Cocodrie, La., a tiny fishing village in the constellation of coastal islands southwest of New Orleans in Terrebonne Parish. It then pushed northeast toward New Orleans, where the authorities said that by late Wednesday there were already reports of more than 200 downed trees.
‘It could have been worse,’ the mayor of hurricane-scarred New Orleans said.
Even with significant power outages and downed trees, officials and residents in Louisiana expressed gratitude Thursday that Hurricane Zeta’s wrath wasn’t more punishing.
“Please be patient,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans. “It could have been worse.”
Though there had been concerns about the city’s aging municipal drainage system, it was able to keep up with the rainfall’s inch-an-hour pace. Some of the lift stations used to move sewage had failed “in a variety of places,” said Ramsey Green, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure and operations, who told residents to expect to see the agency’s “loud yellow vehicles” working in manholes around town, providing power to failed lift stations.
Crews who had weathered the storm at the city’s Department of Parks and Parkways rolled out in trucks as soon as the winds died down, clearing meandering paths one-car wide through piles of greenery along Gentilly Boulevard and other tree-lined streets. Still, Mr. Green said, “There’s a ton of vegetation in the streets right now” and it would take time to clear.