Delta weakens slightly after first landfall in Mexico, restrengthening expected before impacting La. coast

FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Wed., Oct. 7 - Hurricane and storm surge watches issued

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - All of the focus and concern is on Delta, even though the hurricane is still in the Caribbean Sea.

However, with a forecast that continues to point the storm right at the Louisiana coastline, now is the time to make sure you, your family, and your business interests are prepared for what may well become a serious “tropical wallop” on Louisiana.

Rain is likely Thursday and especially Friday as Delta crosses the Gulf and heads towards Louisiana.

Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday near Puerto Morelos along the northeastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

First Alert Forecast
First Alert Forecast (Source: WAFB)

Satellite imagery, radar data from Cuba, and surface observations in Mexico indicate that the center of Delta came ashore around 5:30 a.m. local time as a Category 2 hurricane, sustaining top winds of 110 mph (175 kmh).

Preliminary data suggests Delta may have gone from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane more rapidly than any other storm in the Atlantic Basin’s history.

Some minor weakening may occur as Delta interacts with the Yucatan and a small pool of cooler, upwelled waters in the southern Gulf of Mexico leftover from Gamma, but Delta is expected to remain a major hurricane as it tracks towards the west-central Gulf. Maybe the only bit of good news here is climatologically, hurricanes usually have a difficult time maintaining higher intensities for prolonged periods.

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While Delta has moved a little farther to the west than had been anticipated a day or so ago, the forecast still calls for Delta to make a turn to the north and northeast from Thursday, Oct. 8 into Friday, Oct. 9, bringing the hurricane into Louisiana. The turn will be driven by a high pressure ridge to the hurricane’s east (clockwise rotation) and an upper level trough to its north (counter-clockwise flow). That combination will create the ultimate northeasterly track that brings Delta into the central Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Delta forecast confidence increasing.
Hurricane Delta forecast confidence increasing. (Source: WAFB)

As Delta moves across the northern Gulf, the hurricane will be moving over slightly cooler water than what exists in the western Caribbean. In addition, Delta may encounter some modest southwesterly wind shear, plus it may pull some relatively dry air from the west into the circulation. These three things are probably the key factors with regard to Delta’s modest weakening as it approaches the central Gulf Coast.

However, the intensity is the most difficult aspect of hurricane forecasting. While the official National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast has Delta making landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, Category 3 at landfall is a possibility.

A Louisiana landfall is likely late Friday or very early Saturday, Oct. 10, with the storm advancing into Mississippi by or before Saturday afternoon. Hurricane Watches are likely to be placed along the Louisiana coast late Tuesday night or early Wednesday, with those watches getting upgraded to warnings Thursday.

Delta is expected to maintain a steady forward motion as it moves into the central Gulf Coast. The downside is hurricane-force winds are likely to extend well inland. With hurricane-force winds, plus a wide swath of tropical-storm-force winds extending all the way into Mississippi, widespread power outages appear likely.

Hurricane Delta wind probabilities.
Hurricane Delta wind probabilities. (Source: WAFB)

The one upside is a faster-moving storm is less likely to produce excessive flooding. That said, localized high water and minor to moderate flooding along local rivers and bayous remain a real possibility. Rainfall estimates from the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center (WPC) for southeast and south-central Louisiana, along with southwestern Mississippi, have gone up in the past 24 hours (as the Storm Team predicted), with widespread rains of 4″ to 7″ anticipated. Do not be surprised to see the WPC raise those estimates again between now and Friday. Given those kinds of numbers, river and stream flooding, along with standing water in the usual places, is now a definite concern.

Hurricane Delta threats to Louisiana
Hurricane Delta threats to Louisiana (Source: WAFB)

Voluntary evacuations are already underway along some parishes on the coast, and at least some mandatory evacuations seem likely within the next 24 to 48 hours.

This has the potential to be a very rough storm for southeast and south-central Louisiana, and even for parts of southwestern Mississippi, so make sure you have all your preps in place and you’re ready for power outages.

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