“Delta” grew explosively Tuesday, gaining 65 mph of wind speed in a 12-hour period, becoming a monster hurricane with top winds of 145 mph, and it was forecast to become even stronger.
The National Hurricane Center posted hurricane warnings for the northern Yucatan Peninsula, and Delta’s current track would have it reaching the Louisiana or Mississippi coast on Friday with “an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds."
Its top winds Tuesday were 105 mph stronger than they were Monday morning. The official outlook called for winds to reach 155 mph on Wednesday, just 2 mph shy of Category 5 status, the highest designation for hurricanes.
Peak winds could be close to 125 mph as it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast, the hurricane center said. Eventually it is expected to become a remnant rainstorm whose moisture could reach as far north as the Philadelphia region late in the weekend or early next week.
Delta, which became the record 25th tropical storm of the season when it formed on Monday, was about 215 miles east of Yucatan late Tuesday.
It was forecast to batter the peninsula with hurricane conditions and then turn north, mining the warm Gulf waters and a generally favorable storm environment. It would be the second hurricane to impact the northern Gulf Coast in a month, succeeding Hurricane Sally back when storms still had names.
This one was designated “Delta” because the hurricane center has gone through its naming alphabet and now is using Greek letters.
Delta popped up two days after Gamma. (The "G" letter comes before "D" in the Greek alphabet; the hurricane center uses only 21 letters in its naming system, omitting q, u, x, y, and z, and then resorts to the Greek letters.) Gamma has since lost its tropical storm status.
Never in the period of satellite records dating to 1966 has the season in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, gotten to Delta this fast. The previous record was Nov. 15, set in 2005, which also set the standard for tropical storm numbers, 28.
While the raw numbers of tropical storms have been impressive — nearly triple the average to date — this season hasn’t approached 2005, the year of Katrina and Wilma, for fatalities and overall destruction.
Delta is only the third of the 2020 storms to have reached “major hurricane” status, those with winds of at least 111 mph. That’s in line with the long-term average. Eight became major storms in 2005.
Incidentally, it is the first Greek letter storm to make the grade as a major.