October 5, 2020

Tropical Storm Delta Could Hit The Gulf Coast As A Hurricane Late This Week

It's the season that keeps going and going. We're watching a new tropical storm in the Caribbean that could become a big problem for folks on the Gulf Coast by the end of the week. The National Hurricane Center expects Tropical Storm Delta to approach the northern Gulf Coast as a hurricane on Friday. It's still early, so folks from Texas to Florida need to make sure they're prepared and follow the system's development.

Tropical Storm Delta formed from a disturbance that didn't follow far behind Tropical Storm Gamma, which made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula last Friday. Gamma is still hanging out in the Gulf...well, sort of. The system is basically just a naked swirl out for a skinny-dip off the northern tip of the Yucatan. Gamma (or its remnant circulation) could play a role in Delta's future track and intensity, which makes the ailing system a wildcard in what happens over the next couple of days.

Hurricane Hunters began investigating Tropical Storm Delta this afternoon and found that the system rapidly strengthened and was nearly a hurricane by early evening. One look at satellite and it's not hard to figure out why the system is quickly strengthening. The storm looks very healthy today. Delta isn't lopsided or struggling with dry air, so that'll help its inner-structure continue to organize and allow the storm to steadily gain strength over the next couple of days.

The environment ahead of Delta is quite favorable for development, with calm wind, ample moisture, and warm sea surface temperatures in the western Caribbean and southern Gulf. Forecasters expect Delta to rapidly strengthen into a hurricane by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, possibly reaching major hurricane status by the time it passes the Yucatan Peninsula.

Sea surface temperatures are chillier once you get to the central and northern Gulf, though, as a result of recent storms and recent cold fronts sweeping across the region. These colder water temperatures should stop Delta's strengthening and allow the storm to slowly weaken on approach to the U.S.. That's a welcome change from the previous four hurricanes to hit the United States—Hanna, Isaias, Laura, and Sally all rapidly strengthened as they made landfall.

Even with the colder water, forecasters expect the storm will move at a decent-enough clip that any weakening before landfall would be slow to occur. Accordingly, their latest forecast calls for a hurricane to make landfall somewhere along the northern Gulf Coast at the end of this week.

This is a serious storm that could have wide-reaching effects for folks on the northern Gulf Coast and interior parts of the southeastern states. Heavy rain and wind doesn't stop at the coast. Flash flooding, wind damage, and a threat for tornadoes would be possible well inland along the storm's path.

If you live along the coast—or even a few hundred miles inland—it's a good idea to spend the next day or two making sure you're prepared for the power outages and flooding. Keep enough ready-to-eat food and water to get you through a couple of days in the dark, enough batteries to power flashlights and radios, and charging packs to give your cell phone a few extra charges.

The storm's name, Delta, is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. We've seen 25 named storms so far this year. If Delta makes landfall in the United States, it'll be the tenth named storm to make landfall in the country this year, which would be an all-time record for U.S. landfalls in one season.

[Satellite: NOAA]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.