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'Dangerous’ Hurricane Delta approaches Yucatán Peninsula

Delta could soon be headed toward the United States. But an area of high pressure will likely keep the storm away from Tampa Bay.

Hurricane Delta rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday as it approached the Yucatán Peninsula, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm was about 260 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico according to the hurricane center’s 5 p.m. Tuesday advisory, and is expected to make landfall there on Wednesday morning as a “dangerous hurricane.” Delta was moving west-northwest at 17 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph — but was generating even stronger wind gusts.

Delta is the most powerful Greek-named storm on record and the 25th named storm of this historically active storm season. This is the second-most active season since 2005, which is also the last time when meteorologists ran out of names and had to start designating storms using the Greek alphabet.

The Mexican government issued a hurricane warning to all residents from Tulum to Dzilam de Bravo. Delta will likely bring catastrophic wind, flooding and rain to the region. It should also weaken while overland, then is expected to regain strength when it enters the Gulf of Mexico and aims at the U.S.

Tampa Bay, however, likely won’t see any serious effects of the storm.

“It will stay way to (the bay area’s) west,” said Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. ″October hurricanes in the Caribbean are a special breed — they don’t happen every year, but storms like Wilma and Michael going up into the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a lot of heat and warm water ... This is a small hurricane but its intensified very rapidly."

But Delta likely poses a threat to the United States, however. Its projected path has it approaching Louisiana as a hurricane on Friday evening. But no warnings have been issued yet in the U.S.

While the hurricane’s exact track and strength when it aims at the U.S. is still uncertain, the hurricane center said the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the western portions of the Florida Panhandle are at risk of heavy rainfall and dangerous storm surge starting late Thursday and early Friday.

The projected path of Hurricane Delta over the next five days. [ National Hurricane Center ]

So far, the only expected effects Tampa Bay will feel from Delta are rough surf and rip currents, according to the National Weather Service.

Why does Florida appear to be in the clear? Clay says it is because of an area of high pressure that’s over the state, paired with an area of low pressure over Texas that is making the storm’s path a little easier to predict.

“If that high wasn’t on top of us we’d maybe be dealing with an October hurricane coming our way,” Clay said.

Delta’s intensification — from sustained winds of 35 mph to 130 mph in 30 hours — is the most in that span since Hurricane Celia went from 35 mph winds to 115 mph in 1970.

Delta is the ninth hurricane of this year and the second-most powerful behind Hurricane Laura, which had 150 mph sustained winds and made landfall Aug. 27 in Louisiana.

The bay area will see warm and humid weather for the rest of this week, Clay said. The forecast calls for a high of 92 and 93 on Wednesday and Thursday.

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