Delta’s has rapidly intensified by 70 mph in the last 24 hours to category-2 strength. The last Atlantic storm to intensify more in 24 hours was Hurricane Wilma in 2005 which intensified an incredible 110 mph from 75 mph to 185 mph. Near ideal conditions for further strengthening will continue over the next 24 hours before making landfall near Cancun, MX as a major hurricane. Limited land interaction with the Yucatan Peninsula will result in Delta retaining major hurricane status in the Gulf of Mexico during the back half of the week. Delta is forecast to weaken from a projected peak intensity of a category-4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before a late Friday landfall on the north-central U.S. Gulf Coast. Day-over-day, risk for property damage and impact to life is increasing, both in Cancun and the eventual U.S. landfall region due to a stronger hurricane now expected during the next 3-4 days.
- Rare major hurricane forecast for Cancun, Mexico: Since 1851, only eight major hurricanes of category-3 or higher strength have tracked within 50 miles of Cancun. Category-4 Wilma in 2005 is the most recent major hurricane to hit the region. Wilma’s slow northward track paralleled the coastline while Delta is expected to make a perpendicular landfall overnight. Prior to Wilma, the last direct hit on northeastern Quintana Roo was category-5 Gilbert in 1988.
- Impact of Wilma on Quintana Roo, Mexico: Storm surge of 15 feet accompanied by additional wave action resulted in water inundation into the third story of coastal buildings. Maximum sustained winds of 150 mph caused major property damage. Wilma resulted in over USD 0.5bn in direct property loss (2005 USD, Federal Reserve of St. Louis estimate) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Over 100 hotels were significantly damaged or destroyed, nearly 10,000 homes destroyed and another 19,000 homes significantly damaged. Ultimate business interruption losses from Wilma exceeded property damages due to loss of tourism revenue.
- Gulf of Mexico offshore energy zone: The longer term forecast of Delta in the Gulf of Mexico has increased in intensity to category-4 strength once the hurricane emerges off the Yucatan Peninsula and begins to make the turn to the north. Delta is expected to approach the outer Gulf energy zone as a major hurricane, resulting in precautionary shut-ins and evacuation of personnel 6 weeks after Hurricane Laura resulted in precautionary measures.
- Best-estimate of US landfall: Timing of the turn to the northeast will be the major factor in the ultimate U.S. landfall, with the current best-forecast from NHC indicating a track just to the west of New Orleans, LA as a category-2 hurricane.
- Forecast uncertainty for U.S. landfall: A slower, delayed turn results in Delta tracking further to the west, inclusive of western Louisiana and/or east Texas, while an earlier turn would place Delta further east, potentially as far east as the Mississippi / Alabama coast. Colder sea surface temperatures and increased wind shear in the northern Gulf of Mexico should allow some weakening late Thursday into Friday before a Friday evening landfall.
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Official statements from the NHC and U.S. National Weather Service, and those of emergency management agencies supersede this update, and should be closely monitored concerning matters of personal safety.