Delta rapidly intensified from a Category 3 to 4 in under 30 minutes Tuesday, with further strengthening forecast as an "extremely dangerous" storm as it heads towards landfall onto the Mexican coast.
As of 5:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Delta was 290 kilometres east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, west-northwest at 28 km/h, according to the most recent update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 230 km/h, with higher gusts. It is currently a Category 4 hurricane. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and Delta is forecast to be extremely dangerous when it reaches the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday. Although some weakening is likely when Delta moves over the Yucatan Peninsula, re-strengthening is forecast when the hurricane moves over the southern Gulf of Mexico.
According to a tweet from Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, Delta is "the strongest Greek alphabet-named Atlantic hurricane on record."
He also said Delta intensified by 70 mph (112 km/h) in its first 24 hours of becoming a named storm. This is the most intensification in a 24-hour period for an October Atlantic named-storm since Wilma in 2005.
"On the forecast track, the center of Delta will move over the northeastern portion of the Yucatan peninsula late tonight or early Wednesday. Delta is forecast to move over the southern Gulf of Mexico Wednesday afternoon, be over the southern or central Gulf of Mexico through Thursday, and approach the northern Gulf coast on Friday," the NHC says.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall onto the central U.S. Gulf Coast Friday night or Saturday morning.
"Delta is expected to weaken somewhat before making landfall along the coast of Louisiana Friday night or Saturday morning – but still a dangerous and destructive storm," says Weather Network meterologist Dr. Doug Gillham.
The state of Louisiana just declared a state of emergency in preparation for Delta's landfall.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the southeastern coast of Mexico and Cozumel, while a tropical storm warning is also in place for Cuba province of Pinar del Rio, Isle of Youth, from Punta Herrero to Tulum, Mexico, and from Dzilam to Progresso, Mexico.
Through mid-week, Delta is expected to produce 100-150 mm of rain with isolated maximum totals of 250 mm across portions of the northern Yucatan Peninsula. This rainfall may result in areas of significant flash flooding and mudslides.
Later this week, Delta is expected to bring heavy rainfall to portions of the central Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley and southeastern United States.
As well, Delta is expected to produce a dangerous storm surge that could raise water levels by up to 1.82-2.74 metres above tide along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula within the hurricane warning area, near and to right of where the centre makes landfall.
With these storms, the 2020 hurricane season creeps closer to uncharted territory. The current record for the most active season was set in 2005, which went as far as Zeta, named for the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet after the traditional name list was exhausted. That storm actually lingered a few days into January before finally dissipating.