Tracking the Tropics: Delta reaches hurricane strength with 75 mph winds

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tropical Storm Delta rapidly strengthened over the Caribbean Sea and became Hurricane Delta on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Gamma weakened to a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico and should become post-tropical Monday night.

Here’s the latest from the NHC’s updates:

Hurricane Delta

NOAA Hurricane Hunters flew into Delta Monday night and found it had reached hurricane strength by 8 p.m. ET. An earlier flight found the system, then just a tropical storm, rapidly strengthening.

By 8 p.m., Delta had maximum sustained wind speeds of 75 mph with higher gusts. Additional rapid strengthening is expected in the coming days.

Delta is about 150 miles south-southwest of Negril, Jamaica and 220 miles south-south-east of Grand Cayman. It’s moving west at 8 mph. The storm is expected to pass the Cayman Islands early Tuesday and approach the Yucatan Peninsula and Yucatan Channel Tuesday afternoon or evening.

According to the NHC, Delta is expected to be a major hurricane when it nears the Yucatan Peninsula.

“Dangerous storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected within portions of the northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and are possible in extreme western Cuba beginning Tuesday night,” the NHC said.

After Delta passes the peninsula, it’s expected to move into the southern Gulf of Mexico either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning and reach the south-central Gulf of Mexico Wednesday. It’s forecast to approach the northern Gulf Coast late this week as a hurricane.

“While there is large uncertainty in the track and intensity forecasts, there is an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, wind and rainfall hazards along the coast from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle beginning Thursday night or Friday,” the NHC said.

Watches and warnings have already been issued in parts of Mexico.

Hurricane Warning in effect for:

  • Cuba province of Pinar del Rio
  • Tulum to Rio Lagartos in Mexico
  • Cozumel

Hurricane Watch in effect for:

  • Cuban province of Artemisa
  • Isle of Youth

Tropical Storm Warning in effect for:

  • Cayman Islands including Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
  • Isle of Youth

Tropical Storm Watch in effect for:

  • Cuba province of La Habana

Tropical Depression Gamma

Gamma weakened to a tropical depression on Monday evening with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, according to the NHC. It’s expected to continue weakening gradually and become a post-tropical remnant low Monday night before dissipating Wednesday.

The storm was about 115 miles east-northeast of Progreso, Mexico and 135 miles northwest of Cozumel at 5 p.m. ET. It’s forecast to move inland over the northwest coast of the Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday and remain over the northern part of the peninsula until it dissipates.

At least 6 people died and thousands were evacuated as the storm lashed the peninsula’s coast over the weekend.