The National Weather Service in New Orleans has predicted Hurricane Delta to make landfall in South Louisiana Friday as a Category 3 storm.
Although Delta reached Category 4 strength on Tuesday, it weakened as it struck the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico Wednesday morning and was later downgraded to a Category 2 in the afternoon. Nevertheless, NWS forecasters expect Delta to regain strength as it travels north across the Gulf of Mexico overnight and through Thursday.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he had spoken to President Donald Trump who assured him Louisiana would receive a federal declaration of emergency ahead of the storm’s landfall. Edwards said he expects to receive the declaration by Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.
The governor urged Louisianans to prepare ahead of the storm, which is expected to maintain hurricane strength after landfall and as far north as Central Louisiana, Edwards said.
“No one should let their guard down,” he said.
NWS forecast tracks as of 4 p.m. Wednesday placed Delta’s landfall near New Iberia and Vermillion Parish as early as 1 p.m. Friday, though some forecasters predict it to jog east at some point before then. For this reason, areas of Southeast Louisiana, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans, remained under a tropical storm watch Wednesday afternoon, and residents there should prepare accordingly, according to Benjamin Schott, the head meteorologist at NWS New Orleans.
Schott predicted potential storm surges up to 11 feet in the areas from Port Fourchon to Pecan Island, 5 feet in Terrebonne and St. John the Baptist Parishes and 5 feet in areas surrounding Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Lake Catherine, among others. Additional storm surge and flooding forecasts are available on the NWS New Orleans website.
Storm surges and flooding could be seen as early as Thursday night. The governor said residents should complete their preparations and be in places of shelter by early Thursday.
“One of the saving graces with Delta is it’s a fast-moving storm,” Schott said.
Travelling at recorded speeds of up to 17 mph, Delta is expected to linger for about 12 hours over a given area before moving on, Schott said.
Nevertheless, with surges of up to 11 feet and winds as strong as 129 mph, both Schott and the governor urged residents to prepare for the worst as Delta could leave a path of destruction that rivals that of Hurricane Laura.