KEY POINTS

  • Hurricane Delta made landfall along the Yucatan Peninsula, bringing dangerous storm surges and heavy rainfall
  • Delta weakened as it hit land but is expected to regain strength once it enters the Gulf of Mexico
  • Similar storm surges and rainfall is forecast to batter the Gulf Coast going into the weekend

Hurricane Delta began making landfall in Yucatan, Mexico, on Wednesday as it continued marching northward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Delta was moving northwest at 17 mph with winds averaging 105 mph. It began weakening slightly after making landfall, but is expected to regain strength as it turns northeastward toward the coastline between Louisiana and the western Florida Panhandle. Delta is expected to hammer the southeastern coast of Mexico for most of Wednesday before it moves on.

“Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds will continue within portions of the northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico into early afternoon,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Heavy rainfall, which could lead to significant flash flooding, will affect the northern Yucatan Peninsula through early Thursday.”

Some areas are forecast to contend with up to 10 inches of rain, adding to the rainfall already dumped on the region Monday from Tropical Storm Gamma. The surge is also forecast to be anywhere between 6 and 9 feet above normal along the Yucatan coast and residents who didn’t evacuate were warned to stay away from areas close to the coastline.

The biggest unknown remains Delta’s strength when it starts hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday.

Delta hit category 4 strength on Tuesday while it was moving toward southeastern Mexico. Conditions in the western Caribbean were ideal for rapid growth since water surface temperatures were high and there was low wind shear to offer resistance. It remains to be seen if Delta will encounter similar conditions once the storm’s heart passes the Yucatan and enters the Gulf of Mexico, though the NHC warns it most likely will.

“Delta is expected to grow in size as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast, where there is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds beginning Friday, particularly for portions of the Louisiana coast,” the NHC said. “Storm Surge and Hurricane Watches are in effect, and residents in these areas should follow advice given by local officials.”

Hurricane Delta intensified into a Category 4 storm in the Caribbean and was headed towards Mexico Hurricane Delta intensified into a Category 4 storm in the Caribbean and was headed towards Mexico Photo: RAMMB/NOAA/NESDIS / Handout