PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hurricane Delta Weaker After Leaving Yucatán Coast, But Could Hit U.S. As Major Storm

Hurricane Delta crossed Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula on Wednesday, bringing intense winds and a dangerous storm surge. It's expected to approach the U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday.
NOAA/Esri/HERE/Garmin/Earthstar Geographics
Hurricane Delta crossed Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula on Wednesday, bringing intense winds and a dangerous storm surge. It's expected to approach the U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday.

Updated at 11:56 p.m. ET

Hurricane Delta is back in the Gulf of Mexico northwest of Cancún after making landfall around 6:30 a.m. ET Wednesday on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula as a Category 2 storm, with winds estimated at 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane has weakened, with maximum winds of 90 mph. But it's expected to regain power before approaching the U.S. coast on Friday. Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for parts of the northwestern and northern Gulf Coast.

Delta is moving northwest at 17 mph, the hurricane center said in its 11 p.m. ET update, after bringing a life-threatening storm surge and strong winds to the peninsula. The report said the center of the storm is about 525 miles south-southeast of Cameron, La.

The hurricane made landfall near Puerto Morelos — due north of the island of Cozumel and roughly halfway between the resort hot spots of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.

Mexico's national meteorological service said Delta was causing waves roughly 16 feet to nearly 30 feet high in northern Quintana Roo. Concerns about the hurricane forced people into shelters and sent tourists scrambling for flights that quickly sold out ahead of the storm's arrival.

The storm's winds dropped a bit as its center crossed over land, but forecasters warned it will restrengthen over the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters — and by late Thursday, Delta could have 120-mph winds, making it a Category 3 storm and a major hurricane.

Delta is forecast to hit Louisiana's coast, which has already absorbed a blow from Hurricane Laura — one of several large storms that have made landfall along the Gulf Coast during a busy 2020 hurricane season.

"There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds, especially along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning on Friday," the hurricane center said. "Residents in these areas should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow advice given by local officials."

A large part of the northern Gulf Coast is under a storm surge watch, from High Island, Texas, to the Alabama-Florida border. Forecasters have issued a hurricane watch from High Island to Grand Isle, La. Parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are also under a tropical storm watch.

Delta is predicted to start turning more toward the north than its current northwest track, curving back toward the east in a maneuver that the hurricane center currently predicts will take the storm between the Lake Charles and Baton Rouge areas of Louisiana. It would then cross Mississippi diagonally — dropping an enormous amount of rain and raising flash-flood alarms along the way.

From Friday to Saturday, Delta is forecast to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to areas from the Gulf Coast to parts of the lower Mississippi Valley. Isolated totals up to 12 inches are also possible in some areas.

Mississippi's governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.

"Heavy rainfall will eventually spread into the Tennessee Valley, and interior [Southeastern] United States this weekend into early next week," the hurricane center said.

The storm is relatively small, extending hurricane-force winds outward up to 30 miles from its center, and tropical storm-force winds for up to 125 miles.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.