KEY POINTS

  • Evacuations were underway along the Louisiana coast, causing traffic jams along many roadways
  • Tourists in Cancun were stranded after Hurricane Delta caused multiple flight cancellations
  • Heavy rainfall and strong winds are forecast to endure well after landfall, with the latter possibly leading to tornados

Hurricane Delta grew to a category 3 storm on Friday as it neared the coasts of Louisiana and eastern Texas. As of 7:30 a.m. Friday, Delta was moving north at 12 mph with sustained winds averaging 120 mph in the storm’s epicenter.

“Life-threatening storm surge is expected near and east of where Delta makes landfall this evening, and a Storm Surge Warning is in effect from High Island, Texas, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi,” the National Hurricane Center said. “The highest inundation of 7 to 11 feet is expected somewhere between Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and Morgan City, Louisiana. Residents in the warning area should promptly follow advice given by local officials. The storm surge risk remains high despite the forecast decrease in intensity before landfall since Delta is a relatively large hurricane.”

Evacuation orders are in place all along the Gulf Coast, situated primarily along the Louisiana coastline, as Delta’s current path has the storm’s heart making landfall there. Lake Charles, Louisiana, Mayor Nic Hunter issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday and continues to plead with any residents who haven’t left yet to do so immediately.

Lake Charles was one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Laura in August and many homes have yet to be repaired.

“It really is a scary proposition for Lake Charles,” Hunter said in a Facebook video. “I cannot encourage people enough to evacuate. ... I know that we've been through a lot and I know that we're tired. But we have a job to do right now, and that job is to keep ourselves safe.”

Residents appeared to be taking Hunter seriously and were seen Thursday leaving in droves. Images posted online showed massive traffic jams along Interstate 10 as evacuations picked up.

It was a similar scene in Cancun, Mexico, after Delta already passed over the resort area. Tourists ordered to evacuate packed the city’s international airport found themselves stranded on Thursday as multiple flights had been cancelled and hotels were closed due to the storm. The large crowds are also stoking fear about coronavirus possibly spreading among the stranded tourists.

The threat from Delta is made worse by forecasts showing the storm will continue to be a threat for several days after making landfall. While it will weaken, heavy rainfall will continue to plague the Gulf Coast region and winds are expected to average between 40 and 60 mph for the weekend. Experts fear the hurricane's counterclockwise wind flow could create isolated tornadoes in some areas.

Hurricane Delta moves towards the US on October 8, 2020 in a satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Delta moves towards the US on October 8, 2020 in a satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Photo: NOAA/GOES / Handout