Hurricane Delta is now on the verge of becoming a major storm, after rapidly intensifying in the Caribbean. The hurricane has sustained winds up to 110 mph; it's heading toward the northern Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center says. Its winds could soon top 130 mph.
"The hurricane is in the midst of a very impressive rapid intensification episode, having strengthened over 50 [knots] during the past 24 hours," NHC senior hurricane specialist Eric Blake said in an advisory early Tuesday.
Delta is now at the upper limit of a Category 2 storm; it's forecast to grow into a Category 3 or even Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico.
While the storm is expected to strengthen, cooler offshore waters and other conditions could weaken Delta slightly before it makes landfall on the U.S. late this week.
For now, Delta poses the most immediate threat to the Yucatan Peninsula, where resort spots such as Tulum and Cozumel are under a hurricane warning as the area awaits the storm center's arrival early Wednesday.
"An extremely dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 6 to 9 feet above normal tide levels" in parts of the peninsula, along with large waves, the hurricane center says.
Delta is 370 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, moving west-northwest at 15 mph, the hurricane center said in its 8 a.m. ET update.
The storm is predicted to take a slightly more westward path than forecasters had been predicting on Monday. But it's then seen curling toward the north and northeast, and its potential landfall remains on the Louisiana coast – raising concern in a region that has already seen flooding and power outages from storms over the summer.
Delta raises the very likely prospect that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which has already set records for its fast-paced activity, will now see more U.S. landfalls by named storms than any other recorded year.
"The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is currently tied with the 1916 Atlantic hurricane season," meteorologist Philip Klotzbach says via Twitter, "for most continental US named storm landfalls in a season on record (9 landfalls)."