HURRICANE DELTA EXPLODING INTO A POWERFUL STORM OVER THE CARIBBEAN
Hurricane Delta is the kind of storm we hate to see. The core of the storm, the central part of the circulation where the highest winds are, is compact. Hurricanes of this type can intensify very quickly. The larger the diameter of the circulation, the more air has to get moving to make the winds stronger. Delta’s core is small enough that it can efficiently and quickly intensify. Which it is.
There is nothing obvious to keep Hurricane Delta from getting quite strong. The water is very warm, and the atmospheric conditions are very supportive. The National Hurricane Center is peaking the intensity at a low-end Category 4, but a stronger storm is not out of the question in the southern Gulf.
The first land that appears to be in the way of Delta is the Cancún and Cozumel area on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Hurricane Warnings are in effect. The fact that the core of Hurricane Delta is small turns out to be a good thing in this case. There is a better chance that the worst of a small storm will miss land as it passes Cancún, but people there need to be ready for a really bad hurricane when it makes its closest approach late tonight or early tomorrow. A slight wobble one way or the other makes all the difference.
If it tracks a little west, the whole resort area will get hit very hard.
The remnants of Gamma might deflect Delta slightly to the west as it passes into the Gulf tomorrow, but not much. A little bit means a lot in this case, however, because on Thursday it will turn north. Any jog to the west could change where the eventual landfall point will be on the northern Gulf coast. Various computer forecast models show varying degrees of deflection from slight to none.
Right now, the consensus of the computer forecast models and the National Hurricane Center forecast is that Delta will make landfall in Louisiana. Though areas as far east as the Florida Panhandle should be aware and be alert in case the forecast changes. This is a different situation from Sally, however. The steering currents are much better defined.
After Delta’s intensity peaks over the extremely warm water of the southern Gulf, it should start to weaken a bit as it approaches the northern Gulf coast Thursday and Friday. The shallow water just offshore of the coastline has been cooled by early season cold fronts this year. In addition, the upper-level winds are forecast to become somewhat hostile.
The storm is expected to pick up forward speed as it approaches the coast, however, and that will maintain higher winds on the right side – the onshore side – of the storm. Delta is likely to cause life-threatening storm surge well to the right of where the center comes ashore.
The Gulf water will rise far outside the areas that experience high winds. Listen for Storm Surge Watches and Warnings well east of the wind alerts.
Everybody on the north-central Gulf coast needs to stay on high alert… yet again. This is the sixth time that the New Orleans area has been in the cone this year: Cristobal, Laura, Marco, Sally, Beta, and now Delta. It’s crazy!
Thankfully, none of the storms have hit New Orleans so far, but Hurricane Delta is likely to bring bad weather at the least, and a dangerous hurricane at the worst to southeastern and southern Louisiana. Hurricane Watches will likely be issued for the northern Gulf coast late today or early tomorrow.
Inland areas will also experience dangerous flooding.
There is no danger of Delta making a move like Wilma did 15 years ago and suddenly heading for South Florida. High pressure is protecting us – the same high-pressure system that is steering Delta toward the northern Gulf coast.
What’s left of Gamma was driven over the northern Yucatán Peninsula by the strong circulation around Delta. Between Delta’s swipe, dry air, and hostile upper winds, Gamma gave up. It’s barely just a swirl over land at this point, though still producing some strong thunderstorms.
Elsewhere in the tropics, nothing is pending.