Wind, rain and storm surge to accompany landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the western Caribbean very early Sunday morning and is set to drift north and unleash wind, heavy rainfall and, potentially, ocean surge concerns as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Zeta becomes the record-tying 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, matching 2005 for the most names used in a season (the National Hurricane Center found one additional storm formed in the 2005 season in post-analysis, but it did not receive a name). Hurricane season still has five weeks left, and the record for most named storms could fall.

Zeta is most likely to come ashore the Gulf Coast on Wednesday at tropical-storm strength, but there’s an outside chance that it could cross the coast as a hurricane. According to the Hurricane Center, Zeta “could bring storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts to areas from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.”

The landfall zone includes areas in Louisiana hit hard by hurricanes Delta and Laura as well as parts of Alabama slammed by Sally.

Portions of the beleaguered Pelican State have spent more than three weeks in 2020 inside the National Hurricane Center’s cone of uncertainty, the zone where forecasters have predicted storms could reasonably track.

Zeta is likely to become the 11th named storm to make landfall in the United States in 2020, extending the record for most in a year, which was broken by Delta earlier this month.

Once it comes ashore, Zeta will evolve into a heavy rain threat over the Southeast, thanks to the anticipated interaction of the storm’s remnant tropical moisture with an approaching cold front.