Major Hurricane Delta Barrels Towards The Yucatán Peninsula

Hurricane Delta rapidly strengthened from a tropical depression over the last 48 hours as it nears the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, forecast to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

Delta is the 9th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season and the 3rd major hurricane. It is also the 26th tropical cyclone of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season and the earliest 25th named storm in Atlantic history. The previous record for the 25th named storm was Gamma, on November 15th, 2005. The last (and only) time Delta was used in the Atlantic was on November 22nd, 2005.

This tropical cyclone is not forecast to impact Trinidad, Tobago, or the Lesser Antilles.

List of names for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The next named tropical cyclone will be called Epsilon.
List of names for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The next named tropical cyclone will be called Epsilon.

At 8:00 PM AST, the center of Hurricane Delta was located by a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft near latitude 19.2 North, longitude 84.5 West. Delta is moving toward the west-northwest near 17 mph (28 km/h). A west-northwestward to northwestward motion is expected over the next couple of days. A slower northwestward to north-northwestward motion is forecast to begin on Thursday, and a northward motion is expected Thursday night and Friday. 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.

Maximum sustained winds are near 145 mph (230 km/h) with higher gusts. Delta is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some strengthening is possible before the center reaches the coast of the Yucatan peninsula early 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 Wednesday night and Thursday.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles (45 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 956 millibars.

Hurricane Delta Forecast Track as of 8:00 PM AST Tuesday 6th October 2020. (National Hurricane Center)
Hurricane Delta Forecast Track as of 8:00 PM AST Tuesday 6th October 2020. (National Hurricane Center)

Watches & Warnings

Hurricane Delta Watches and Warnings as of 8:00 PM Tuesday 6th October 2020. (National Hurricane Center)
Hurricane Delta Watches and Warnings as of 8:00 PM Tuesday 6th October 2020. (National Hurricane Center)

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Tulum to Dzilam Mexico
  • Cozumel

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Cuba province of Pinar del Rio
  • Isle of Youth
  • Punta Herrero to Tulum Mexico
  • Dzilam to Progreso Mexico

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

Interests along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast should monitor the progress of Delta. Hurricane and Storm Surge Watches will likely be issued for a portion of this area on Wednesday.

For storm information specific to your area, please monitor products issued by your national meteorological service.

Hazards Affecting Land

Hurricane Delta probabilities for tropical-storm-force winds as of 5:00 PM AST Tuesday 6th October 2020, as well as the most likely time of arrival of tropical-storm-force winds. (National Hurricane Center)
Hurricane Delta probabilities for tropical-storm-force winds as of 5:00 PM AST Tuesday 6th October 2020, as well as the most likely time of arrival of tropical-storm-force winds. (National Hurricane Center)

STORM SURGE: A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels in areas of onshore winds by as much as 9 to 13 ft above normal tide levels along the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Cabo Catoche to Progresso, and 6 to 9 ft above normal tide levels along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.

WIND: In the Yucatan Peninsula, potentially catastrophic hurricane conditions are expected in portions of the warning area late tonight and early Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning later this evening. Tropical storm conditions are expected in the tropical storm warning area tonight and Wednesday. In Cuba, tropical storm conditions are expected tonight in the warning area.

RAINFALL: Delta is expected to produce 4 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 10 inches, across portions of the northern Yucatan Peninsula through midweek. This rainfall may result in areas of significant flash flooding.

Over the next few days, Delta is expected to produce 2 to 4 inches of rain, with isolated higher amounts, across portions of the Cayman Islands and western Cuba. This rainfall may result in areas of flash flooding and mudslides.

Later this week, Delta is expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches, over portions of the central Gulf Coast. These rainfall amounts may lead to flash, urban, and minor river flooding. Heavy rainfall will eventually spread into the Tennessee Valley, and interior southeastern United States as well.

SURF: Swells generated by Delta will affected land areas around the northwestern Caribbean Sea for the next day or so. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather office.

This system is of no direct threat to the Windward Islands, including Trinidad and Tobago.

Hurricane Delta Forecast Discussion

Hurricane Delta (Weathernerds.org)
Hurricane Delta (Weathernerds.org)

Shortly after the release of the 1500 UTC advisory package, the NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft measured a peak flight-level wind of 132 kt, and during its final passage through the northeast eyewall around 1700 UTC it reported a peak SFMR wind of 121 kt. The aircraft continued to report an extremely small 4-to-5-nmi-wide eye. The central pressure did level off somewhat on the final couple of penetrations, with the latest reported central pressure at 956 mb. The initial wind speed was raised to 120 kt on the earlier intermediate advisory, and has been set at 125 kt for this advisory. The next reconnaissance aircraft mission into the hurricane is scheduled for this evening.

There has been no evidence of an outer eyewall from the aircraft reports or earlier radar imagery from Grand Cayman. As a result, some additional strengthening is likely to occur before Delta reaches the northeastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula late tonight or early Wednesday. The NHC intensity forecast is once again a little above the various intensity aids until landfall in Mexico. When the small inner core of Delta moves over land, weakening is expected, but warm waters and low vertical wind shear over the southern Gulf of Mexico should support re-strengthening, and a second peak in intensity is likely when Delta is over the central Gulf of Mexico in 48-60 hours. After that time, increasing southwesterly shear and the cooler shelf waters over the northern Gulf are expected to cause some reduction in wind speed. The global models, however, depict a significant increase in the size of Delta’s wind field while it is over the Gulf of Mexico, which increases the spatial extent of the storm surge and wind threats for the northern Gulf coast. So regardless of Delta’s final landfall intensity, the projected large size of the hurricane is likely to result in a significant storm surge and wind event for portions of the northern Gulf coast later this week.

Delta has been moving steadily west-northwestward today at 300/15 kt. The track forecast reasoning remains unchanged from the previous advisory. A mid-level ridge over Florida and the northeastern Gulf of Mexico is expected to continue steering Delta west-northwestward during the next 36-48 hours. After that time, a developing trough over the south-central United States should cause Delta to turn northward, and by Friday the hurricane is forecast to begin accelerating northward or north-northeastward ahead of the trough. This motion will bring Delta onshore along the northern Gulf coast between 72 and 96 hours. The dynamical models continue to be tightly clustered through 48-72 hours with some increase in spread thereafter. The overall trend in the guidance has been slightly westward, and the new forecast has been adjusted accordingly and lies near the middle of the envelope. Supplemental upper-air balloon launches at 0600 and 1800 UTC have begun at upper-air sites across portions of the southeastern United States. In addition, a NOAA G-IV synoptic surveillance mission is in progress and should provide additional data for the 0000 UTC cycle of the dynamical models.

Key Messages for Hurricane Delta (National Hurricane Center)
Key Messages for Hurricane Delta (National Hurricane Center)

Key Messages:

  1. Life-threatening storm surge and potentially catastrophic wind damage are expected within portions of the northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico beginning tonight. All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.
  2. Heavy rainfall will affect portions of the Cayman Islands, western Cuba, and the northern Yucatan Peninsula through midweek. This rainfall could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides. The potential for heavy rain, flash, and possible minor river flooding will increase across portions of the central Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley, and the southeastern United States as Delta moves inland later this week.
  3. 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. Residents in these areas should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow advice given by local officials. Storm surge and hurricane watches will likely be issued for portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

Forecast discussion by NHC Forecaster Brown.

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