Hurricane Delta is fast approaching a landfall in western Louisiana, where it is expected to come ashore early Friday evening as a category 2 hurricane. Delta will be the tenth named storm to make landfall in the U.S. so far in 2020, beating the record of nine U.S. landfalls set in 1916.
Delta will be the fourth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana this year, along with Tropical Storm Cristobal, Tropical Storm Marco, and Hurricane Laura. This ties the record for most landfalls in a single season in Louisiana, set in 2002, when Tropical Storm Bertha, Tropical Storm Hanna, Tropical Storm Isidore, and Hurricane Lili all made landfall. Six previous seasons have had three landfalls in Louisiana: 1860, 1885, 1923, 1957, 2005, and 2017.
Delta already causing flood problems in Louisiana
A moist flow of air in advance of Delta brought torrential rains overnight to the northern side of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The airport recorded 7.97 inches of rain between 8 p.m. CDT Thursday and 5 a.m. Friday, with rainfall rates in excess of two inches per hour near midnight. Radar-estimated rainfall amounts of 12 – 14 inches occurred just to the north of Baton Rouge. In response, the Amite River in Baton Rouge rose over 10 feet in less than four hours, reaching its fourth-highest flood level since records began over 60 years ago. Local media reported a number of high-water rescues in the city.
Overnight, Delta passed directly over Buoy 42002, which recorded a minimum pressure of 953 mb and peak winds of 76 mph, gusting to 98 mph, at 11 p.m. CDT Thursday. The buoy measured a significant wave height of 35.4 feet at 11:50 p.m. CDT, when the eye passed overhead. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters measured significant wave heights (the mean wave height of the highest third of the waves) of up to 32 feet inside Delta on Friday morning.
Hurricane hunter aircraft from both NOAA and the Air Force reported a slow weakening trend of Delta on Friday morning, with its 35-mile-diameter eye open on the south side and the radar presentation of the eye growing less impressive. Delta’s central pressure rose from 953 mb at 5 a.m. EDT to 963 mb at 1 p.m. EDT, and the surface winds decreased from 120 to 110 mph.
Track forecast for Delta
There isn’t much mystery about where Delta will make landfall, with western Louisiana squarely in the crosshairs of the storm, according to the tightly clustered computer model forecasts. Delta will make landfall over western Louisiana early Friday evening within 50 miles of where devastating category 4 Hurricane Laura came ashore on August 27.
Intensity forecast for Delta
Delta will have marginal to hostile conditions for intensification up until landfall. Ocean temperatures beneath it will be 26 degrees Celsius (79°F), wind shear will be high, at 25 – 35 knots, and Delta will be embedded in a dry atmosphere with a mid-level relative humidity of 40 – 50%. However, Delta is large enough to be able to resist high wind shear and dry air for the short time that remains until landfall. The top intensity models generally predicted with their Friday morning runs that Delta would be a slowly weakening category 2 hurricane at the time of landfall in Louisiana.
Delta has expanded in size, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 40 miles from the center at 11 a.m. EDT Friday, and tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 160 miles. These winds will bring a large and damaging storm surge to the coast, with the National Hurricane Center predicting a peak storm surge of between seven and eleven feet.
The live storm surge tracker at Trabus Technologies showed Delta was generating a significant storm surge along the Louisiana and Texas coasts early Friday afternoon. As of 2 p.m. EDT, here were the top storm surge levels observed:
Freshwater Canal Locks, LA: 5.1 feet;
Calcasieu Pass, LA: 4.1 feet;
Texas Point-Sabine Pass, TX: 3.7 feet; and
San Luis Pass, TX: 3.3 feet.
Louisiana still recovering from Hurricane Laura
Hurricane Laura on August 27 roared ashore in western Louisiana as a mighty category 4 storm with 150 mph winds – the strongest landfalling hurricane in Louisiana history, and the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to make a continental U.S. landfall. Laura brought a storm surge as high as 17.2 feet above dry ground (20 feet above sea level) to Rutherford Beach, Louisiana, ranking as the ninth-highest storm surge on record for the Gulf Coast. In its wake, Laura left 33 people dead in the U.S. and over $14 billion in damage, with Lake Charles, Louisiana, suffering some of the most severe impacts.
Delta will bring damaging winds, storm surge, and flooding rains to many of the same areas devastated by Laura. The last time two hurricanes made a U.S. landfall at nearly the same location during the same year was in 2004, when category 3 Hurricane Jeanne and category 2 Hurricane Frances made landfall within 10 miles of each other near Stuart, Florida, on September 5 and September 26, respectively.
What if the name Delta needs to be retired?
According to the World Meteorological Organization, if the name Delta needs to be retired from the list of hurricane names as a result of its impact on Mexico and Louisiana, it would be retired as “Delta 2020” and Delta would continue to be used when the Greek alphabet is needed again.
Bob Henson contributed to this post.
Posted on October 9, 2020 (1:25pm EDT; updated at 2 p.m. with the latest storm statistics).