By MAX GOLEMBO and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Fast-moving Hurricane Zeta has strengthened to a Category 2 storm as it races toward the Gulf Coast.

Zeta will likely remain at Category 2 when it makes landfall in eastern Louisiana around 4 p.m. local time.

Hurricane warnings were issued for southeastern Louisiana, including New Orleans, and for southern Mississippi, including Gulfport and Biloxi.

Tropical storm watches extend from Mississippi to Alabama to the Florida panhandle, and even parts of the western Carolinas, including Greenville and Asheville.

The forecast

The biggest threat will be storm surge of up to 7 feet in Louisiana and up to 9 feet in Alabama and Mississippi.

Gulfport and Biloxi could see wind gusts topping 90 mph.

Powerful wind gusts could also reach 90 mph in New Orleans. The city canceled all public school classes for the day.

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority is suspending all bus, streetcar and ferry services beginning at noon.

Rain won’t be as big of a threat. Some areas could see up to 6 inches of rainfall and possible flooding.

Tornadoes are possible in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Louisiana has been especially hard-hit this hurricane season. Zeta will become the third hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana in two months.

Because Zeta is moving so quickly, heavy rain and powerful wind gusts will extend well inland across the Southeast, which could cause power outages overnight. Wind gusts Thursday morning could top 50 mph from Atlanta to the western Carolinas.

Zeta’s remnants will then slam the Northeast with rain and snow Thursday into Friday. The first accumulating, widespread snowfall of the season is possible for Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York’s Hudson Valley.

The last time a hurricane made landfall in the U.S. so late in the calendar year was Hurricane Kate in November 1985.

Hurricane Zeta is the 27th named storm of the season. In 2005, there were 28.

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