Hurricane Delta, the latest storm in this year’s “hyperactive” Atlantic hurricane season, is forecast to make landfall in southwest Louisiana this evening as a Category 3 storm. The hurricane’s path is projected to fall between Lafayette and Lake Charles, areas that were badly affected by Hurricane Laura, the Category 4 storm that hit the Gulf Coast on August 27.
Delta’s windspeed clocked in at 120 mph Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has a widening range, with tropical-storm-force winds reaching up to 160 miles outward. The NHC projects that the hurricane will bring a “life-threatening” storm surge; the stretch of coast between Louisiana’s Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and Morgan City could be the worst inundated, with a surge of up to 7 feet in some areas and 11 feet in others.
Heavy rainfall is also expected: up to 15 inches in some areas of southwestern and central Louisiana, the NHC forecasts, which will cause significant flooding.
The hurricane is the seventh major storm to hit Louisiana since June, the New York Times reports. The Gulf of Mexico as a whole has seen more hurricane activity in recent years, with climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.
Hurricane Delta previously made landfall 20 miles south of Cancun, Mexico, early Wednesday morning as a Category 2 storm.
On its approach to the Yucatan Peninsula, the storm morphed from a mere tropical depression (indicating wind speeds of less than 38 mph) to a Category 4 hurricane — a record-setting intensification, according to Samuel Lillo, a postdoctoral meteorologist at the University of Colorado Boulder
Delta just went from 35mph tropical depression to 130mph category 4 hurricane in 30 hours!— Sam Lillo (@splillo) October 6, 2020
I can't find any other storm on record in the Atlantic that has achieved this feat.
The next largest 30-hour intensification from tropical depression is Celia 1970: 35mph to 115mph.
This kind of rapid intensification is becoming more common due to climate change. Warmer waters essentially provide extra fuel for hurricanes, which allows them to not only become stronger, but also intensify more quickly, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist Jim Kossin told the Associated Press.
The tourist hot spot Cancun avoided severe physical destruction since the storm didn’t make a direct hit, instead landing 25 miles away. The Mexican government ordered evacuations on Tuesday morning, and tens of thousands of tourists had to relocate to shelters. Almost 300,000 people lost power due to the storm.
Though its brush with the Yucatan slowed the storm, it picked up speed again as it headed north toward the Gulf Coast.
Evacuation orders have been issued for many parishes in Louisiana, including Calcasieu Parish where Lake Charles is located. as well as parts of Alabama.
The National Hurricane Center advised residents this morning to quickly make preparations for the storm, with tropical-storm-force winds imminently arriving.
Preparations for the arrival of Hurricane #Delta need to be rushed to completion, with tropical-storm-force winds expected to reach the coast in the next couple of hours, making preparations dangerous or impossible to complete. pic.twitter.com/au1F6bV5dS— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) October 9, 2020