FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Hurricane Delta strengthened as it moved across the central Gulf of Mexico and is expected to barrel ashore Friday along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Louisiana is bracing for heavy rain and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 11 feet, forecasters say.
Delta could briefly become a Category 3 hurricane, forecasters said, but is likely to be a Category 2 storm when it makes landfall with wind speeds around 100 mph.
In addition to storm surge and dangerous winds, Delta is expected to inundate the region with up to 10 inches of rain and isolated areas seeing as much as 15 inches in southwest and south central Louisiana.
There is potential for dangerous and prolonged flash flooding and river flooding in the region, according to the hurricane center.
Tropical-storm-force winds could arrive Thursday along with dangerous ocean swells. As of 8 a.m., Delta's maximum-sustained winds were hovering around 100 mph, with higher gusts.
Louisiana, Mississippi and a sliver of southeast Texas remain in the forecast path. The track shifted away from Florida's Panhandle on Tuesday night.
"The majority of (Delta's impact) at this point looks like it'll be in the Lake Charles area, and then a little bit into our area," said meteorologist Tim Destri of the National Weather Service New Orleans/Baton Rouge office.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Delta - the earliest 25th-named storm ever to form - was located about 425 miles south-southeast of Cameron, La., traveling northwest at 15 mph.
A hurricane warning is in effect east of Sabine Pass, Texas, to Morgan City, La. A storm surge warning is in effect for Sabine Pass to Ocean Springs, Miss., including Calcasieu Lake, Vermilion Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Borgne.
A tropical storm warning is in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Sabine Pass; and from east of Morgan City, La., to the mouth of the Pearl River, including New Orleans, Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain.