Hurricane Delta ‘rapidly intensifies’ to Category 2 storm, takes aim at Cancun before US Gulf Coast
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tuesday morning that Hurricane Delta is now a Category 2 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as it is located 420 miles east-southeast of Cozumel moving west-northwest at 15 mph.
“Delta rapidly intensifies into a Category 2 hurricane,” the NHC said Wednesday morning. “Extremely dangerous hurricane conditions expected for the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula starting early Wednesday.”
The storm rapidly intensified overnight from having 80 mph winds into a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph gales and is expected to strengthen even further as it moves north into the Gulf of Mexico.
Delta is expected to become a major hurricane — Category 3 or higher — over the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday and over the Gulf of Mexico through at least Thursday.
Data from a U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Delta will continue to strengthen as its forward speed increases, the NHC said.
Forecasters from the NHC noted that Delta is expected to reach a Category 4 storm while in the Gulf of Mexico.
The brunt of the storm is expected to arrive along the northern Yucatan Peninsula starting Tuesday night, with a hurricane warning in effect for Tulum and Cozumel, resorts still being soaked by the remnants of Tropical Storm Gamma.
The NHC is warning of an extremely dangerous storm surge raising water levels by as much as 6 to 9 feet, accompanied by large and dangerous waves and flash flooding inland.
Delta “presents an important danger for the coastal regions” because of the storm surge in the lower parts of Quintana Roo, such as the resorts of Cancun, Holbox island or Isla Mujeres, Jorge Zavala, head of Mexico’s meteorological service, said in a press conference late Monday. The area is still feeling impacts from Tropical Storm Gamma.
Zavala said preventative evacuations would begin Tuesday morning.
Once Delta moves through Mexico, the storm is expected to curve in the Gulf of Mexico and take aim around Friday on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Energy companies were also taking precautions on oil rigs, pulling nonessential workers from platforms on Monday in preparation for the storm’s arrival.
Right now, it appears Louisiana will take the brunt of the worst of the impacts from this storm, but everyone along the coast needs to pay attention to the path of Delta.
As the storm gets closer to the U.S., the potential for heavy rain and flash flooding will extend from the Gulf Coast to the Tennessee River Valley and across the Southeast.
Dangerous rip currents are also impacting Gulf Coast beaches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in Mobile, Ala.
If the storm makes landfall in the U.S., it would be the 10th storm to do so this season, which could break the record for storms to directly strike the continental U.S.
Delta is the 25th named storm in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, setting yet another record. The previous record for the earliest 25th Atlantic named storm is Nov. 15, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane research scientist Phil Klotzbach.
NOAA forecasters have called for up to 25 named storms this season with winds of 39 mph or higher; of those, seven to 10 could become hurricanes. Among those hurricanes, three to six will be major, classified as Category 3, 4 and 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher.
That’s far above an average year. Based on 1981-to-2010 data, that is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Laura caused major damage across southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas after roaring ashore as a Category 4 storm. Hurricane Sally made landfall last month in coastal Alabama, bringing damaging impacts along the Gulf Coast into Florida’s Panhandle region.
The last time the Greek alphabet was used in the Atlantic was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. With a total of 27 storms that year, the first six letters of the Greek alphabet were used: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.
With weeks to go until the season officially ends, the 2020 season could set the record for most named storms.
Fox News’ Brandon Noriega and the Associated Press contributed to this report.