ORLANDO, Fla. — Hurricane Delta weakened to a tropical storm overnight, but the system still packs high wind gusts and threatens heavy rains across portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.
As of Saturday morning, Tropical Storm Delta was about 45 miles south-southeast of Monroe, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, the NHC said in its latest advisory.
Delta is moving north-northeast at 16 mph, and is expected to move across northern Mississippi and into the Tennessee Valley late Saturday and into Sunday, the NHC said.
About 780,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi by about 9 a.m. Saturday, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.
Delta made landfall Friday evening near Creola, Louisiana, as a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds. EDT. It slammed into the southwestern part of the state, bringing life-threatening storm surge among other dangers to a state already bruised by two storms this season.
Delta’s landfall was historic — it’s the first Greek alphabet-named hurricane named to make landfall in the continental U.S., according to Colorado State University meteorologist and researcher Phil Klotzbach.
Nic Hunter, mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana, told the Associated Press that tarps were flying off homes across the city, and piles of wreckage were being blown around, some of it floating in the surge of ocean water.
Delta lost some strength before making landfall due to less oceanic heat and more vertical wind shear, according to the NHC. An hour after landfall, the storm weakened into a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds.
The NHC first tweeted at 1:56 a.m. EDT that Delta had downgraded to a tropical storm. Forecasters expect Delta to further weaken to a tropical depression later Saturday.
“Additional weakening is forecast, and Delta is expected to become a tropical depression later today,” the latest advisory reads.
Delta’s tropical-storm-force winds extend outward from its core up to 90 miles. A 51 mph wind gust was registered at Hawkins Field in Jackson, Mississippi, the NHC said.
Forecasters expect Delta to produce 2 to 5 additional inches of rain, with potential of up to 10 inches, for northern Louisiana, southeast Arkansas, and western Mississippi, the NHC said. Through the weekend, the Tennessee Valley can expect 1 to 3 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, as Delta’s remnants move further inland.
Tornadoes are possible across eastern Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, and western-central Georgia, the NHC said.
While Louisiana was impacted by two storms making landfall this year, this is the sixth time the Pelican State has been threatened by tropical systems striking the Gulf Coast.
Before Delta, residents were still recovering from the damages brought on by Category 4 Hurricane Laura in August, which brought winds of 150 mph, destruction to the southwestern region and was blamed for more than 30 deaths. Louisiana was also hit by Tropical Storm Cristobal in June.
Delta previously cut through the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 2 storm Wednesday, bringing fear to the area as it quickly became a Category 4 hurricane, the third major hurricane of the season, with winds of 130 mph before degenerating. No deaths or injuries were reported.
Further east, a tropical wave over the central tropical Atlantic is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms.
The wave is expected to continue moving westward between 15 to 20 mph. Environmental conditions could be conducive for gradual development over the weekend.
The wave has a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm within the next two days and a 20% chance in the next five.
However, as it continues west, the wave is forecast to encounter unfavorable upper-level winds that should stymie it from further growth.
If it becomes a tropical storm, it will be the 26th named storm of the season and receive the name Epsilon.
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