Delta rapidly becomes a dangerous Category 4 hurricane
We now have a major hurricane in the Caribbean. Delta has sustained winds up to 130 mph making it a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir Simpson scale. Delta has continued to rapidly strengthen in the Caribbean over the past 24 hours. It has already intensified over 85 mph in a matter of 24 hours. It is the most intensification in a 24 hour period for an October Atlantic named storm since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It is now the strongest Greek alphabet named Atlantic hurricane on record.
The National Hurricane Center is forecasting Delta to maintain Category 4 strength, and likely to strengthen as it approaches Cancun, Mexico Wednesday morning. It would not surprise me if Delta tries to become a Category 5 hurricane prior to making landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula. The interaction with land could temporarily weaken Delta Wednesday afternoon, but it will regain strength as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday evening into Thursday morning. The latest forecast shows Delta regaining Category 4 strength Thursday evening with winds up to 130 mph.
A second landfall could occur somewhere in Louisiana Friday evening as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. It will then weaken as it moves inland and towards us Friday into Saturday. The forecast cone still includes parts of the Mississippi and Alabama coast. It also extends into the western parts of the Florida Panhandle. All areas need to have a plan in place just in case the track shifts more to the east. A track to the east will mean bigger impacts along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Confidence continues to increase that landfall will occur in Louisiana Friday evening into early Saturday morning.
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is currently tied with the 1916 Atlantic season for the most continental U.S. named storm landfalls in a season on record. We have already seen nine landfalls including Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna, Isaias, Marco, Laura, Sally, and Beta. We will likely break the record Friday when Delta is forecast to make landfall along the central Gulf Coast.
Gulf Coast Impacts: Latest forecast has the center of Delta move into central/southeast Louisiana Friday evening as a 100 mph hurricane. The good news is that the storm will likely weaken or slow down in strengthening as it approaches the Gulf Coast thanks to cooler waters and some wind shear. Storm surge, heavy rain, flooding, damaging winds, and isolated tornadoes will all be possible for Louisiana, Mississippi, and even the Alabama Gulf Coast. The strongest winds will likely be near the center of the storm. If landfall occurs in Louisiana, the Alabama Gulf Coast will be spared from the damaging wind threat. The main threats will likely be storm surge and outer rain bands capable of producing heavy rain, flooding, and isolated tornadoes. Conditions will likely deteriorate Thursday evening and continue on Friday.
Central Alabama Impacts: The next big thing for us is seeing direct impacts from Delta. With a later arrival on landfall Friday evening, our impacts will likely go up Friday night into Saturday. We could see some heavy rain and a low-end threat for isolated tornadoes if the forecast track remains true. If the storm ends up shifting more to the south and east, our tornado threat could be reduced. I think Saturday will be the greatest potential to see strong winds and heavy rain especially for areas along and west of I-65. We might not see some improvement across our area until Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Temperatures will likely stay in the 70s over the weekend.
Potential Rainfall Totals: Latest outlook from the Weather Prediction Center is that most of Central Alabama could see rainfall totals around 2-4 inches. Higher totals are possible in far west Alabama where some spots could see rainfall greater than four inches. If Delta makes landfall in Louisiana and travels northwards into Mississippi, rainfall totals could be averaging 3-6 inches for most of Mississippi. We could see some isolated flash flooding Friday into Saturday. Forecast could change if Delta’s track shifts to the west or east. A track more to our south and east could lower our rainfall totals. Stay with us for continuous updates throughout the week. Make sure you download the WBRC First Alert Weather App for continuous updates on Hurricane Delta.
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