CANCUN, Mexico (AP) - Hurricane Delta is getting bigger fast and speeding up as it takes aim at Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It's now a Category 4 hurricane with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph). Forecasters now expect Delta to slam into beach resorts from Tulum to Cozumel with an extremely dangerous storm surge of up to 11 feet (3.3 meters) and even higher waves. And once it leaves Mexico, it's expected to regain Category 4 status over the Gulf as it approaches the U.S. coast, where landfall around Friday would be followed by heavy rainfall across the southeastern United States. In the last 24 hours Hurricane Delta has had a jump in winds over 70 mph, it now is classified as a major hurricane with winds of 130 mph (Category 4) and will likely continue to strengthen for the remainder of the day.
There's little that stands in its way as it moves to the Yucatan Peninsula and will have an initial landfall as a strong Category 4 storm near Cancun, Mexico before getting back out into the south Gulf of Mexico.
10:00 am update:
Once out in the southern Gulf of Mexico it will regain the strength that it lost from its interaction with land and briefly return to Category 4 strength before it begins to interact with slightly more hostile conditions as it turns to the east.
There's a slight shift in the track from the National Hurricane Center pulling the center of the storm slightly west, landfall now along the St. Mary and Iberia Parish border during the early morning hours of Saturday.
This shift corresponds to the general westward trend of most major models, and while fairly consistent there's still some spread between some of the major global models which is why the cone stretches from Sabine Pass to Mobile Bay.
Unfortunately one of the seasons best performing models, the GFS, has remained consistent with a southeast Louisiana landfall and has drifted slightly to the eastern shore of Vermilion Bay as indicated by the new NHC track.
This slide to the west will obviously pull along the impacts slightly to the west as well which would mean a large percentage of Acadiana will feel stronger impacts as they'll be closer to the center which will contain the worst winds.
There will likely be areas immediately in the eye wall that will have wind gusts around 105-110 mph, but since it should stay a smaller storm most of Acadiana will probably be facing winds gusts closer to 70 mph.
Once again, and this can't be stressed enough, these numbers are likely to change as the forecast becomes more clear so don't get fixated on one particular forecast it's the trend that is important.
Winds may begin to pick up as early as Friday morning for areas along the coast, preparations for this storm need to be completed by Thursday, and at this point all of Acadiana has roughly a 70% chance or better to encounter tropical storm forced winds.
As mentioned previously wind gusts, particularly along the eye, will be intense so loose debris or lawn furniture needs to be brought inside or tied down so as not to be picked up and thrown in the wind.
After a storm earlier in the season most of the loose limbs have been taken care of but double check trees to see if there are any you can get cleaned up prior to the arrival of the storm.
Since the track seems to be following along with the GFS it felt appropriate to use the GFS numbers when it comes to rain totals, use the above graphic as a guide and don't fixate on individual numbers.
Instead what this graphic is telling us is that the storm will be capable of producing 6-10" of rain, with hotspots that may be closer to a foot since models often will underestimate tropical rain totals.
The storm is moving quickly which will help alleviate some of the flash flooding concerns, but not all of them, and low lying areas will struggle to drain that much water arriving at once so pooling will be likely in problem areas.
Storm surge along and near the east of the center may hit the 6-14 feet range, and as we get closer to landfall we'll be able to run some of the models and get a better idea of which part of the coast will get the worst.
In the meantime, expect significant coastal flooding along the Vermilion Bay, particularly along the eastern side of the Bay, meaning the Iberia and St. Mary Parish coastline
There will be some factors that will limit the potential of Delta as it approaches the Louisiana coastline, this is not to minimize the storm at all it will still be a destructive and powerful hurricane as it moves toward Louisiana.
Instead this is an attempt to battle back any hysteria regarding a storm that blows up before landfall, especially since we are seeing Delta do that right now although circumstances will be a little different.
Let's start with a glance at water temperatures, the area the storm is sitting in currently is absolute jet fuel, and the waters just north of the Yucatan remains incredibly warm as well which is where the storm will emerge on Wednesday.
This gives it a quick shot at hitting Category 4 strength again before moving north to a much cooler continental shelf, and that dip in water temperature means it will have a very tough time strengthening.
Now it's a fast moving storm and momentum will keep it a major hurricane as it hits the coast but I wouldn't expect a Laura like flareup right before it hits the shore.
Just to reiterate that does not mean that this storm should be taken any less seriously, current projects keep it a major hurricane at landfall.
There's also going to be an area of shear in the western Gulf of Mexico, this will prevent it drifting to far west into the central Texas coast, but will also start to work against the storm as it starts to turn east.
The shear and water temperatures are adding to the already tough task of intensity forecast so I will urge, once again, to not get fixated on one particular forecast and keep on top of the changes.
As it now stands all of Acadiana will feel impacts from this storm and everyone should be starting their prep work so that it can be wrapped up by Thursday.
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