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Fast-moving Hurricane Zeta to impact Okaloosa, rest of Northwest Florida with rain, some wind

Savannah Evanoff
Northwest Florida Daily News

Hurricane Zeta is moving quickly.

John Helffrich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, said the storm will pass within a matter of only four hours Wednesday night. While the hurricane will make landfall in Louisiana between 5 and 6 p.m., Okaloosa County will see its effects later in the evening and into Thursday morning, he said.

More:Okaloosa County School District issues statement about Hurricane Zeta

“The biggest threat for Okaloosa County, I would say, is some tropical storm-force wind gusts with the potential for some heavy rain, isolated tornadoes and severe thunderstorms,” Helffrich said. “Impacts for the Florida Panhandle will be anywhere between 8 to 11 p.m. tonight, but then still have the rain bands on the southern end of the storm, so tomorrow morning early a.m., the storm will be completely moved out and stuff will clear out.”

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Helffrich said he doesn’t think Pensacola will be impacted much by sustained tropical storm-force winds. The storm took more of a western track than what had been forecast Tuesday, he said.

More:Updates: Conditions deteriorating as Hurricane Zeta approaches northern Gulf Coast

“The only thing to be concerned about in the Florida Panhandle is potential for some isolated tornadoes considering we’re in the right front quadrant of the storm,” Helffrich said. “There’s a decent amount of low level shear in the atmosphere. The combination of that with the storm is bringing the potential for that.”

As of Wednesday morning, the storm is a couple hundred miles off the Gulf Coast moving north at 17 mph, Helffrich said. It will start turning northeast soon.

“It’s going to continue tracking northeast at around 15 to 20 miles an hour,” Helffrich said. “It’s moving pretty fast. It’s going to be quick hitter; in and out.”

Okaloosa County schools are functioning normally but have canceled after-school activities and day care facilities. Early voting polling places in Okaloosa will close at 5 p.m.