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Delta Strengthens Into A Hurricane, Is Forecast To Hit Gulf Coast This Week

Hurricane Delta is forecast to blast through the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in the U.S. on Friday.
National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Delta is forecast to blast through the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in the U.S. on Friday.

Updated at 11:02 p.m. ET

The storm called Delta, which formed in the Caribbean Sea on Monday morning, has strengthened into a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center says. The storm will likely reach the northern Gulf Coast early Friday.

Delta continues 2020's record Atlantic storm season, which exhausted the traditional list of alphabetized names last month. It's the earliest arrival of a 25th named storm. And like several other recent storms, its forecast path includes Louisiana.

"All of Louisiana needs to prepare for Tropical Storm #Delta," Gov. John Bel Edwards said via Twitter on Monday morning. He urged residents to keep an eye on the news and listen for advisories from local officials.

The storm's maximum sustained wind speeds powered-up on Monday, from 40 mph in the morning to 80 mph late in the evening. The hurricane center predicts Delta will get significantly stronger in the next couple days, aided by very warm waters in the Caribbean and favorable wind patterns.

The hurricane center expects Delta's winds to top 100 mph two days from now, although cool offshore waters near southwestern Louisiana and Mississippi could weaken the storm a bit before landfall. Those speeds would make Delta a strong Category 2 hurricane.

"Now is the time to put your hurricane plans into action," the National Weather Service office in New Orleans said on Monday.

Acknowledging "large uncertainty" over the storm's track and intensity, the hurricane center warns, "there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, wind, and rainfall hazards along the coast from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle."

The exact path of the storm remains uncertain. Delta is expected to stay on a generally northwestern track for several days, but as with other recent storms in the Gulf, it will likely curve more toward the north and northeast as it gets closer to land on Thursday and Friday. The exact timing of those moves will determine which communities face the greatest risk of flooding, storm surge and other dangers.

Delta is currently about 150 miles south-southwest of Negril, Jamaica, heading west-northwest at 7 mph, the hurricane center said in its 11 p.m. ET update. It's expected to bring strong winds and heavy rains to parts of the Cayman Islands and western Cuba as it nears the Gulf.

The only other time meteorologists resorted to naming Atlantic storms with the Greek alphabet was in 2005, when officials had to use a total of six Greek letters, stopping at Zeta.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.