Hurricane Delta strengthened a day earlier than initially expected, and a western swing in the track now has the storm crossing the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday morning.
If it sticks to this path, Delta could be the second storm to cross the region mere days after Tropical Storm Gamma killed at least six people.
The National Hurricane Center predicted that Delta will rapidly intensify into a powerful Category 3 hurricane by late Tuesday as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula and western Cuba. The Northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and extreme western Cuba will likely see a dangerous storm surge and hurricane conditions beginning Tuesday night.
As of the 11 p.m. Monday update, Delta had 80 mph maximum sustained winds and was headed west-northwest at 7 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 10 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 70 miles from the center.
Once in the Gulf, forecasters aren’t sure exactly where Delta will go, although the storm is expected to weaken to a Category 2 in the slightly cooler waters. They warned the storm could bring storm surge, rain and wind anywhere from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle.
“Although there is still significant uncertainty regarding Delta’s intensity when it nears the northern Gulf coast, it is becoming increasingly likely that the system will pose a significant wind and storm surge threat to a portion of that area,” forecasters wrote.
Where is Post-Tropical Cyclone Gamma and where is it going?
Forecasters are also watching what is now Post-Tropical Cyclone Gamma, which weakened Monday evening into a post-tropical remnant low.
The storm has already killed at least six people in Mexico, including four from a mudslide caused by the intense rain, the Associated Press reported.
As of 11 p.m. Monday, the storm was about 85 miles east northeast of Progreso, Mexico, and about 125 miles northwest of Cozumel, with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph. The storm was inching southwest at 6 mph.
“After the remnants of Gamma makes landfall, dissipation is likely to occur Wednesday as larger, Tropical Storm Delta approaches the Yucatan Channel,” forecasters wrote.
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.