Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET
Hurricane Delta is currently emerging back into the Gulf of Mexico northwest of Cancun, after making landfall on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula as a Category 2 storm around 6:30 a.m. ET with winds estimated at 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
The hurricane has weakened, with maximum winds of 105 mph. But it’s expected to regain power before approaching the U.S.coast on Friday. Hurricane and storm surge warnings have now been issued for parts of the northwestern and northern Gulf Coast.
Delta is currently moving northwest at 17 mph, the hurricane center said in its 11 a.m. ET update, after bringing a life-threatening storm surge and strong winds to the peninsula.
The hurricane made landfall near Puerto Morelos — due north of the island of Cozumel and roughly halfway between the resort hotspots of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.
Describing current conditions, Mexico’s national meteorological service says Delta was causing waves roughly 16 feet to nearly 30 feet high in northern Quintana Roo. Concerns about the hurricane forced people into shelters — and sent tourists scrambling for flights that quickly sold out ahead of the storm’s arrival.
The storm’s winds dropped a bit as its center crossed over land, but forecasters warn that it will restrengthen when it returns to the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters — and by late Thursday, Delta could have 120 mph winds, making it a Category 3 storm and a major hurricane.
Delta is forecast to hit Louisiana’s coast, which has already absorbed a harsh blow from Hurricane Laura — one of several large storms that have made landfall along the Gulf Coast during a busy 2020 hurricane season.
“There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds, especially along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning on Friday,” the hurricane center said. “Residents in these areas should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow advice given by local officials.”
Delta is predicted to start turning more toward the north than its current northwest track, curving back toward the east in a maneuver that the NHC currently predicts will take the storm between the Lake Charles and Baton Rouge areas of Louisiana. It would then cross Mississippi diagonally — dropping an enormous amount of rain and raising flash flood alarms along the way.
From Friday to Saturday, Delta is forecast to bring 4-8 inches of rain to areas from the Gulf Coast to parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Isolated totals up to 12 inches are also possible in some areas.
“Heavy rainfall will eventually spread into the Tennessee Valley, and interior southeastern United States this weekend into early next week,” the hurricane center said.