Hurricane Delta has exited the Yucatán Peninsula after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to regain major-storm strength before striking Louisiana on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Delta was a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the hurricane center’s 5 p.m. Wednesday advisory. It was located 55 miles north-northeast of Progresso, Mexico and moving northwest at 17 mph through the warm waters of the western Gulf of Mexico. A major hurricane is any storm Category 3 and above.
Delta appears headed straight for the Louisiana coast, where it is expected to make landfall and bring “life-threatening” storm surge on Friday afternoon, the center said. It is 580 miles south-southeast of Cameron, La., and closing.
Colorado State University research scientist and hurricane forecaster Philip Klotzbach said Delta is moving fast, so that will give it less time to dump catastrophic rain on the U.S. coast. The threat of storm surge and high winds remain catastrophic, however, especially if Delta hits in the same southwestern Louisiana coastline that Hurricane Laura did on Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm with maximum winds of 150 mph.
“If we just put the track-line on and look at where the storm is supposed to hit, it’s pretty close to where Laura hit," Klotzbach said. "It definitely looks like Louisiana will be hit by some kind of hurricane on Friday — whether that’s a category one, two, three or even four remains to be seen.”
Delta is the 24th named Atlantic storm of the year and the strongest Greek-named storm on record. Louisiana has borne the brunt of this historic Atlantic storm season. It has felt the effects of named storms Cristobal, Fay, Sally and Beta. Marco weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall Aug. 24 near the mouth of the Mississippi, and then days later came Laura.
The hurricane center expects Delta to grow significantly in size and again reach Category 3 strength on Thursday morning. But there are factors that could it keep from doing so, Klotzbach says, or at least keep it from reaching Category 4 fury again.
The first factor is the water off the Louisiana coast, which is now cooler than usual. This should keep Delta from rapidly intensifying — which is what it did Tuesday, going from a tropical depression to a Category 4 hurricane in 48 hours — as it made landfall in Mexico.
This also means Delta will be losing strength right before landfall — the opposite of what Laura did six weeks ago.
“The odds of it rapidly intensifying at the shore, as Laura did, is really, really low,” Klotzbach said. “It’ll be weakening as it comes onshore.”
The second factor is wind shear, which Klotzbach said will increase in the coming days and could further weaken Delta. Still, he warned the hurricane remains a serious threat to Louisiana’s central coastline.
“It will be very impactful for the people it hits,” Klotzbach said.
2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
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