Oct. 8 (UPI) — Hurricane Delta strengthened into a Category 3 storm Thursday afternoon as it moved toward the U.S. Gulf Coast and was on track to make landfall somewhere in Louisiana, forecasters said.
In its 10 p.m. CDT update, the National Hurricane Center said the major hurricane was located 285 miles south of Cameron, La., and had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. It was moving north-northwest at 12 mph.
Delta had weakened to a Category 1 storm late Wednesday.
The NHC said in its advisory that Delta will bring hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge to the Gulf Coast sometime on Friday.
“On the forecast track, the center of Delta will move over the western Gulf of Mexico this evening, over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico on Friday, and then move inland within the hurricane warning area Friday afternoon or Friday night,” the NHC said in its advisory.
Delta is expected to strengthen again before it reaches land. It grew to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday before weakening to Category 3. The storm would return to Category 3 strength — and “major” hurricane status — once sustained winds reach 111 mph.
“Additional strengthening is possible tonight. Some weakening is possible as Delta approaches the northern Gulf coast on Friday, with rapid weakening expected after the center moves inland,” the NHC noted.
Forecasters also said the storm system could produce a few tornadoes late Thursday and early Friday over southern parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
The government issued a hurricane warning for High Island, Texas, east to Morgan City, La.; a storm surge warning from High Island to Ocean Springs, Miss.; and a tropical storm warning for High Island west to Sargent, Texas, Morgan City east to the mouth of Pearl River, and Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. There was a tropical storm watch in effect from the Pear River to Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Delta is expected to be the third hurricane to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in recent weeks. Hurricanes Laura and Sally made landfall between eastern Texas and the Florida panhandle in September.