Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Zeta could threaten Philly with heavy rains, flash flooding on Thursday

Downpours and drain-clogging leaves could lead to one messy day Thursday. Wet leaves on roads are especially hazardous.

Clouds gather over Playa Gaviota Azul as Zeta approaches Cancun on Monday. It was forecast to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast Wednesday. Its remnants are due to pass near Philly.
Clouds gather over Playa Gaviota Azul as Zeta approaches Cancun on Monday. It was forecast to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast Wednesday. Its remnants are due to pass near Philly.Read moreVictor Ruiz Garcia / AP

In the year of unrelenting strangeness, the Philadelphia region finds itself under a flood threat from a storm named for a Greek letter.

After Hurricane Zeta makes a record-breaking landfall — probably along the Louisiana coast early Wednesday evening — its remnants are due to arc northeastward toward the Philadelphia region, and heavy rains are expected Thursday into Thursday night.

The National Weather Service says flash flooding is possible with up to three inches of rain starting Thursday morning. If that much fell, some road-ponding would be a reasonably safe bet given all the drain-clogging leaf-fall.

In addition to clogging drains, wet leaves are “extremely slick,” said PennDot spokesperson Brad Rudolph, adding that crews would be out attempting to clear drains, especially along interstates.

Any downpours also could set off stream flooding. “That’s definitely a possibility,” Trent Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, said Tuesday.

» READ MORE: Why the Gulf is getting hammered in this record hurricane season but the East Coast has been spared

But some residents along the Gulf Coast evidently are in for a far rougher time of it. Hurricane warnings have been posted from Morgan City, La., to the Mississippi/Alabama border.

While Zeta lost its hurricane strength during its frictional encounter with the Yucatan landmass, Zeta lost its hurricane strength, but it was due to regain it with peak winds of 80 mph once it begins prowling the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

If the forecast holds, Zeta would be the record 11th tropical storm to make a U.S. landfall this season. The old standard, nine, had stood for more than a century.

It also would be the eighth to land on the Gulf shores this season. In contrast, the Atlantic Coast has seen only one hurricane make landfall.

» READ MORE: Heavy rains cause flooding at Shore and in Philly as Tropical Storm Fay deluges the region

This would be the third instance of tropical-storm remnants affecting the Philadelphia region. Fay and Isiais generated considerable rainfall around here during the summer.

» READ MORE: Isaias leaves destruction and thousands in Philly region without power: ‘The worst ... is yet to come’

Since then the procession of storms in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, has zipped through the National Hurricane Center’s naming alphabet, and the personifications have yielded to the letters of Greek alphabet.

If an “Eta” develops in the Atlantic Basin — don’t be confused by the “Z" in Zeta, that’s only the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet — it would be tropical storm No. 28, tying the record set in 2005, the only other season that made it to Alpha.

The average number for tropical storms, those with winds of at least 39 mph, in the June 1 to Nov. 30 season is 11. The normal for hurricanes, those with winds of 74 mph or better, is six; Zeta has become No. 11.

This would be the first time that Philadelphia experienced impacts from a Greek-letter storm.