U.S. weather forecasters say Hurricane Delta is gathering strength as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico and is likely to reach the Louisiana coastline late Friday, possibly as a major hurricane.
In its most recent report Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said Delta was swirling in the center of the Gulf, about 645 kilometers south of the Louisiana coast, moving northwest at about 22 kilometers per hour. Its current maximum sustained winds are at about 165 kph, making it a strong category 2 hurricane on the Saphire-Simpson scale, used to measure hurricane strength.
The hurricane center reports wind, water temperature, and moisture conditions appear favorable for Delta to regain major hurricane strength in the next 12 to 24 hours, with winds between 178 and 208 kilometers per hour, though some weakening is likely before it makes landfall.
The storm is also expected to grow in size and effect a broad area of the southern U.S. coastline, from western Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.
The center of the storm is expected to make landfall Friday afternoon or evening, local time, in the coastal region just to the south of the area between Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana. That is where Hurricane Laura caused heavy damage and cut power in some locations for weeks in late August.
Delta hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday as a category 2 storm, flooding streets, knocking down trees and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. But authorities reported no deaths or injuries from the storm.
The day before, the storm caught the attention of meteorologists when it exploded from a strong category 2 storm to category 4 storm in just over 20 minutes, as it moved across the southern Caribbean Sea, only slightly more than a day after forming as a tropical storm.
Delta is the 25th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, and is the earliest forming 25th storm of any hurricane season on record.