Packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday along the northeastern Mexican coast of the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 2 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.
Delta, which was located about 20 miles south of Cancun, is expected to strengthen back into a major hurricane after sweeping through open water in the Gulf of Mexico on a path toward the Louisiana coast, CNN reported.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency and encouraged residents to be prepared for a major hurricane and not focus on its strength, according to the network.
The state is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, which slammed ashore as a Category 4 storm in August. More than 6,600 Laura evacuees remain in hotels around the state, mainly in New Orleans, because their homes are too heavily damaged to return.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also has declared a state of emergency ahead of Delta.
Ben Schott of the National Weather Service said Delta will be a major hurricane with life-threatening storm surge, damaging winds and flash flooding.
The earliest the storm will hit is Friday morning, he said, but if the system slows, it could be as late as Saturday morning, according to CNN.
In Mexico, Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín warned residents and tourists that Delta “is a strong, powerful hurricane.”
He considered it a good sign that the hurricane had weakened a little late Tuesday, but said the area hadn’t seen a storm like it since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Delta increased in strength by 80 mph in just 24 hours, more than doubling from a 60 mph storm at 2 p.m. Monday to 140 mph at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Its top winds peaked at 145 mph before weakening late Tuesday as it closed in on Yucatan.
Hundreds of guests and some 200 workers from the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel were taken to the Technological Institute of Cancun campus, where they hunkered down and spread out on thin mattresses.
“The hotel has done a good job of making sure that we were provided for and that we’re going to be safe here in this place, so we don’t have any concerns at all,” said Shawn Sims, a tourist from Dallas sheltering with his wife, Rashonda Cooper, and their sons, Liam, 7, and Easton, 4.
“This is my first (hurricane) experience, but I see that these guys have a plan and they know what they’re doing,” Sims said.
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