SLIDELL, La. — Hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity in states across the South on Thursday as Hurricane Zeta barraged through the region with powerful winds, shredding homes and businesses and knocking down trees.
The storm moved quickly, making landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday afternoon. Before the night was over, officials on the coast had already begun assessing the extent of the damage and deploying workers to begin restoring power.
But by Thursday morning, about 400,000 customers in Louisiana were without power, according to Entergy Louisiana, while at least 600,000 across Georgia, 494,000 in Alabama and more than 83,000 in Mississippi were also without power.
Zeta had weakened into a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, and was about 50 miles west of Asheville, N.C. Zeta was forecast to make its way to the Mid-Atlantic states by the afternoon and then out into the Atlantic Ocean by the night, producing as much as three inches of rain across the area.
Zeta had slammed coastal areas with several feet of storm surge, but much of its wrath came from powerful winds. In New Orleans, the storm left behind a dark city. Local journalists shared images on social media showing the French Quarter devoid of light and life. The storm also unleashed floods in Louisiana and Mississippi.
“We definitely made it through,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a briefing on Wednesday night.
At least three deaths have been attributed to the storm. The authorities said a man had been electrocuted by a downed power line in Louisiana on Wednesday while another man had presumably drowned in Biloxi, Miss., late that night. And early Thursday a man died in Cherokee County, Ga., when a tree fell onto a mobile home.
Officials warned residents of the dangers that linger after the storm and urged them to avoid venturing out too early.
“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.
A darkened city had made it difficult to take stock of the storm’s full impact overnight. “There are still a lot of unknowns out there,” Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said late Wednesday.
But residents knew enough to find a measure of relief. In a city haunted by the deadly and devastating floods of Hurricane Katrina, there had been worries of significant flooding once again. But officials said that flooding, as of Wednesday night, was limited to streets and had not affected homes, businesses or other structures.
Zeta also swept into Mississippi, where Gov. Tate Reeves said on Wednesday night that President Trump had approved a disaster declaration for the state, the second this month for Mississippi, which had also been struck by Hurricane Delta.
There were reports of winds of about 100 m.p.h. whipping through coastal cities, including Gulfport, and of flooding in Biloxi. Local television stations broadcast footage of cars bobbing in a waterlogged parking garage at one of the casinos perched along the edge of the Biloxi Bay.
Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting from London.