Delta now projected to become a major hurricane with 120 mph winds!
Tropical Storm Delta now has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and a minimum central pressure of 983 mb. It will clearly become a hurricane tonight. Landfall is projected west of New Orleans, but it could still shift a little. It will weaken somewhat before landfall, but it will probably still be a dangerous Category 2 hurricane.
From the National Hurricane Center:
Visible satellite imagery shows that the convective banding of Delta has continued to quickly improve since this morning. The primary convective band now wraps entirely around the center, with what appears to be a banding-type eye feature occasionally noted. There are some dry slots between the convective bands but those appear to be gradually filling in. A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft currently collecting data in the storm environment found peak SFMR winds of 55 kt during its first pass through the center from northwest to southeast. The plane also reported a minimum pressure of 983 mb, much lower than previously estimated. The aircraft also observed an 18 nmi-wide-eye that was open to the west-northwest. Assuming that there are stronger winds yet to be sampled in the northeastern quadrant, the initial intensity has been raised to 60 kt. Delta is situated within a very conducive environment for strengthening. The storm will be moving over SSTs of 29-30 degrees Celsius and the vertical wind shear is forecast to remain 5 kt or less while Delta traverses the northwestern Caribbean. These conditions are expected to allow for rapid strengthening over the next 24 to 36 hours. The SHIPS Rapid Intensification Index gives a better than 50 percent chance of a 35-40 kt increase in wind speed over the next 24 hours. The NHC intensity forecast follow suit by calling for rapid intensification over the next day or so, and Delta is forecast to be a major hurricane when is passes near or over the northeastern portion of the Yucatan peninsula. Once the storm reaches the central Gulf of Mexico in 60-72 hours, increasing southwestern vertical wind shear and cooler shelf waters over the northern Gulf are likely to result in some reduction in wind speed as the system nears the northern Gulf coast. Although there is still significant uncertainty regarding Delta's intensity when it nears the northern Gulf coast, it is becoming increasing likely that the system will pose a significant wind and storm surge threat to a portion of that area.
FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS INIT 05/2100Z 16.2N 79.4W 60 KT 70 MPH 12H 06/0600Z 17.1N 80.9W 75 KT 85 MPH 24H 06/1800Z 19.0N 83.5W 95 KT 110 MPH 36H 07/0600Z 21.0N 86.2W 105 KT 120 MPH 48H 07/1800Z 22.6N 88.7W 105 KT 120 MPH 60H 08/0600Z 23.7N 90.6W 105 KT 120 MPH 72H 08/1800Z 24.8N 91.5W 95 KT 110 MPH 96H 09/1800Z 28.5N 91.5W 85 KT 100 MPH 120H 10/1800Z 33.0N 89.0W 40 KT 45 MPH...INLAND