BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Our run of beautiful fall weather looks to come to a screeching halt later this week as we face a potential hurricane threat along the northern Gulf Coast. While we should stay mainly dry through Wednesday, all eyes will be on Delta as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico over the next couple of days.
Delta was named at 7 a.m. Monday and as of 10 a.m. maximum winds are now up to 45 mph. The forecast calls for steady, if not rapid strengthening over the next couple of days, with Delta expected to become a hurricane by late Tuesday.
It is possible Delta could become a major hurricane over the central Gulf of Mexico although that is not explicitly shown in the current National Hurricane Center forecast.
Guidance continues to show Louisiana as the most likely landfall location, but it must be emphasized that average forecast errors at 4 days are close to 150 miles. The entire Louisiana coastline eastward to the Florida Panhandle should be monitoring Delta closely. Landfall appears most likely to occur sometime on Friday.
On the current forecast, tropical storm force winds could reach the Louisiana coast by late Thursday. That means hurricane and storm surge watches will likely be posted for parts of the northern Gulf Coast by late Tuesday.
Tropical storm wind probabilities are listed at greater than 50% for Baton Rouge as of the Monday morning update and those numbers are even higher east and southeast of the Capital City. Tropical storm force winds would likely spread inland late Thursday night into Friday on the current forecast track.
There are indications that wind shear and somewhat cooler water near the northern Gulf Coast could cause weakening as Delta approaches landfall, but it remains unclear at this point how much weakening might occur.
With a Category 2 landfall currently forecast from NHC, significant impacts from wind, rain, and storm surge will all be possible.
In terms of rainfall, the outlook issued early Monday morning from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center showed 2 to 4 inches of rain on average locally through Saturday morning. Given a slight westward trend in the forecast track, I think those numbers will probably go a bit higher for our area in subsequent outlooks.
The one bit of good news is that Delta should be moving fairly quickly at the time of landfall, which results in a somewhat lower ceiling for rain totals. However, flooding will still be possible.
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