Hurricane Delta, now a Category 3 storm, grew bigger and stronger on Thursday ahead of its likely landfall in Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm re-strengthened into a Category 3 in the warm waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico Thursday afternoon. That strengthening is expected to continue until Friday morning when Delta will briefly hit 125 mph maximum winds before weakening again at Louisiana’s doorstep.
Cooler waters and less favorable atmospheric conditions should bring Delta down to 120 mph winds, but the hurricane center noted the possibility that Delta could further strengthen instead.
“A short period of rapid intensification remains possible given current trends, although the various rapid intensification indices are not enthusiastic about the possibilities of this,” forecasters said.
As of the 11 p.m. update, Delta had 120 mph winds and was headed north-northwest at 12 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35 miles from the center, and the area of the tropical storm force winds expanded to 160 miles from the center, compared to 125 miles earlier in the day.
The hurricane models are in rare agreement that an eastern Louisiana landfall is happening, prompting a storm surge watch to be discontinued for most of Mississippi’s coast.
But forecasters warned that while Delta’s wind speeds may wobble while it churns through the Gulf, it’s expected to grow bigger. By landfall, the storm’s effects could reach from Texas’ easternmost coast to the western edges of Mississippi. The Florida Panhandle is even expected to see rough surf and swells.
— Ray Hawthorne (@ray_hawthorne) October 8, 2020
Delta’s current track is just over a dozen miles east of the path of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that left thousands in the area without shelter or with blue tarps on their roof. It hit on Aug. 26 and tied Louisiana’s record as strongest-ever storm to make landfall.
South-central to southwest Louisiana could see up to 15 inches of rain in some spots, and the worst of the storm surge could reach 7 to 11 feet, the hurricane center said.
As of the 8 p.m. update, the hurricane center also started tracking a “vigorous tropical wave” several hundred miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. It’s expected to move west-northwestward at about 15 mph Forecasters gave it a 0% chance of forming in the next two days but a slim chance (20%) for formation in the next five days.
“...Environmental conditions could be conducive for some gradual development this weekend or early next week while the system is over the tropical Atlantic well east of the Lesser Antilles,” forecasters wrote.