The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Wednesday morning that Hurricane Delta has weakened a bit to a Category 2 storm but is still packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph as it was located 20 miles south of Cancun.
The storm made landfall along the coast of northeastern Mexico near Puerto Morelos around 6:30 a.m. EDT, according to the NHC. Winds in Cancun were reported around 84 mph with gusts up to 106 mph.
Forecasters said that up to 12 feet of storm surge is possible from Cabo Catoche to Progresso, which will be accompanied by “large and destructive waves.”
Up to 10 inches of rain is also possible across the region, which could cause flash flooding and mudslides.
The storm will weaken a bit before heading into the Gulf of Mexico later on Wednesday night.
Delta is forecast to re-strengthen as it moves over the southern Gulf of Mexico Wednesday night and Thursday, and could yet again become a Category 4 hurricane by Thursday night. The storm has a history of explosive development.
Delta increased in strength by 80 mph in just 24 hours, more than doubling from a 60 mph storm at 2 p.m. EDT Monday to 140 mph at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday. Its top winds peaked at 145 mph before weakening slightly late Tuesday as it closed in on Yucatan.
We’re expecting Delta to make landfall across Louisiana late Friday bringing dangerous, life-threatening conditions once again to this region.
Residents in these areas along the Gulf Coast need to complete their preparations and/or evacuations by Wednesday.
Tourist hot spot of Cancun bunkers down
Thousands of tourists and residents have moved into shelters for safety in Mexico’s Riviera Maya as Delta approached.
Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquín said Tuesday the state government had prepared but warned residents and tourists that “it is a strong, powerful hurricane.” Delta is the strongest storm in the region since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
In Cancun, local officials cleared out much of the hotel zone as guests were bused to inland shelters. In Cancun alone, the government opened 160 shelters. Some 400 tourists from hotels and rental properties were spending the night at the Cancun Convention Center.
“We hope that in this place we are surely much safer,” Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas told the Associated Press. “This is a structure that has withstood other hurricanes.”
The Atelier Playa Mujeres hotel converted its conference room into a shelter for its guests, as seen in photos and video posted to Twitter.
Tourists such as Pam Harrison said they had to trade their resort for shelter at the arena at Riviera Maya.
“I’ve passed one room. It looked like it had some cots set up that were not social distanced and they were right on top of each other,” she told FOX10. “So we really don’t know. We’ve been waiting out here for several hours to get in.”
At the Technological Institute of Cancun campus, some 300 guests and 200 staff from the Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel were taking shelter, all spread out and wearing masks.
“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,” Shawn Sims, a tourist from Dallas, told the AP as he was sheltering with his wife, Rashonda Cooper, and their sons, 7-year-old Liam and 4-year-old Easton.
State tourism officials said more than 40,000 tourists were in Quintana Roo, a fraction of what would normally be there. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that 5,000 federal troops and emergency personnel were being made available in Quintana Roo to aid in storm efforts.
Oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico have also told non-essential staff to evacuate their offshore platforms, Reuters reported.
If the storm makes landfall in the U.S., it would be the 10th storm to do so this season, which could break the record for storms to directly strike the continental U.S.
NOAA forecasters have called for up to 25 named storms this season with winds of 39 mph or higher; of those, seven to 10 could become hurricanes. Among those hurricanes, three to six will be major, classified as Category 3, 4 and 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher.
That’s far above an average year. Based on 1981-to-2010 data, that is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The last time the Greek alphabet was used in the Atlantic was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. With a total of 27 storms that year, the first six letters of the Greek alphabet were used: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.
With weeks to go until the season officially ends, the 2020 season could set the record for most named storms.
Fox News’ Brandon Noriega and the Associated Press contributed to this report.