Tropical Storm Zeta south of Cuba to gain power as it heads north towards US Gulf coast

MIAMI (BLOOMBERG) -  A tropical depression gained power south of Cuba to become tropical storm Zeta on Sunday (Oct 25) as it travelled north into the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s poised to become the record 11th storm to hit the US in a single year.

The tropical storm had winds of 65kmh as it moved north-west about 400km south of Cuba’s western tip, the US National Hurricane Centre said in an advisory. 

A turn to the north-west and increase in forward speed are forecast by Monday (Oct 26), it said.

On its current track, which is subject to change, it could brush the edge of the offshore oil and natural gas fields near Louisiana that have seen numerous shut-ins this season

"Slow strengthening is forecast during the next 72 hours, and the system is expected to become a tropical storm on Sunday and could become a hurricane over the south-west Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday," Mr Eric Blake, a senior hurricane specialist at the centre, said in his forecast.

So many storms have formed this year that the hurricane centre has run out of official names and has started using Greek letters to designate systems. The US has been particularly hard hit with Hurricanes Isaias, Laura, Hanna, Sally and Delta all striking the coastline, causing billions of dollars in damage. A handful of tropical storms have hit the US as well.

While some storms, including Isaias and Fay, hit the East Coast, the majority of systems struck the Gulf Coast between Texas and Florida. That includes Hurricanes Laura and Delta, which both came ashore near Cameron, Louisiana, providing a double dose of misery for residents in the western part of the state.

The latest storm will probably also strike Louisiana, making it the fifth to do so in 2020.

A typical Atlantic hurricane season spins up only 12 storms, and only 2005 produced more systems than this year, with 28.

The six-month season theoretically ends on Nov 30 but a number of storms formed before the season's official start date of June 1 this year, and some meteorologists think they could keep coming into December.