As of the 4:00 pm advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Delta continues on a trend of intensifying with maximum sustained winds up to 145 MPH with gusts up to 175 MPH, along with a minimum surface-level pressure of 956 MB. Movement continues to be to the west-northwest at 17 MPH. The very small eye was located about 215 miles to the east-southeast of Cancun, Mexico.
Unfortunately, some further intensification will be possible from now until Delta makes the first landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday morning, potentially becoming a category 5 storm before land interaction begins to weaken Delta. By 1:00 pm on Wednesday afternoon, the eye of Delta will have emerged over the southern Gulf of Mexico, and intensification is expected to occur once again, potentially reaching category 4 strength.
Once we get to early Friday morning, Delta will begin to move over much cooler water and into an environment that will have increasing wind shear out of the southwest which will allow for some weakening. Even with that being said, Delta looks to be making land fall as a category 3 hurricane. Another bit of bad news is that the latest global models have indicated that there will be a significant increase to the wind field size as it approaches, which means that there is now an increasing risk of a significant storm surge and wind event for the northern Gulf Coast.
The cone stretches from as far west as Galveston, Texas, and as far east as Port Sulphur, Louisiana, with the center of the cone lining up with Intercoastal City, Louisiana. Therefore, there is a high probability of the eye of Delta making landfall within that stretch of the northern Gulf Coast.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not focus on the details of the track or intensity forecasts, as the average 4-day track error is around 150 miles and the average 4-day intensity error is close to 15 MPH.
We could see the outer rain bands from Delta move up into the southern portions of Central Alabama as early as Thursday evening and progress north and northeastward rather quickly through the night and through the day on Saturday. With the center projected to move north-northeastward through much of Mississippi before making the northeastward jog through the extreme northwestern parts of Alabama during the day on Saturday and through the early morning hours on Sunday, much of the heavier rainfall and stronger winds will stay mostly in Mississippi and out of Central Alabama. However, we can still expect it to be wet and quite breezy at times from Friday through Sunday.
We will have some instability working into the area as the center moves north-northwestward through Mississippi, so we’ll have the small potential of a brief spin-up tornado or two across the area, more than likely west of the I-65 corridor. Isolated damaging wind gusts can’t be ruled out as well.
Projected rainfall amounts across Central Alabama have come down a good bit over the last 24-hours with totals ranging from around 0.75 inches in the southeastern parts of the area to as high as 3.50 inches in the extreme northwestern parts of the area. If you remember, totals were expected to be 3.50 to 6.50 inches across the area from southeast to northwest, but that is how much a minor shift in the forecast track can impact the forecast.
We’ll probably see hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge watches issued along the northern Gulf Coast and just inland probably as early as the 7:00 pm update on Wednesday evening (maybe even earlier). There will be a strong likelihood of life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and dangerous rip currents along the portions of the Gulf Coast that will go under watches and to the east of those areas.
There will be plenty of updates and advisory posts put out between now and the end of the weekend. Be sure to keep informed as any small adjustment to the forecast track may greatly affect the impacts you could see in your neighborhood. Have a great evening.