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Strengthening Hurricane Delta roars toward Yucatan

Cancun, Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres in the bullseye Tuesday night

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One projection has Hurricane Delta on a more westward track, putting Merida and Progreso closer to its path. Graphic: Yucatan civil protection unit

Still dealing with a soaking from a weakening Gamma, the Yucatan Peninsula now has Hurricane Delta to deal with.

Delta was strengthening and on course to pass by the Cayman Islands early Tuesday before crossing the Peninsula and reaching the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it is forecast to strike the U.S. Gulf Coast later in the week.

The brunt of the hurricane was expected to be felt around Cancun, Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres, which were forecast to start seeing hurricane conditions Tuesday night. The storm will possibly reach land, as a Category 3 Hurricane with winds surpassing 110 mph, early Wednesday.

With Hurricane Delta approaching, Progreso and Merida were under a moderate “yellow” alert on Tuesday morning while risks were seen as higher in Izamal, Valladolid and Tizimin — the regions hardest hit by earlier storms. Graphic: Yucatan civil protection unit / YEL

Delta “presents an important danger for the coastal regions,” said Jorge Zavala, head of Mexico’s meteorological service. Zavala said evacuations would begin Tuesday morning.

The hurricane was moving into an area with very warm water and nearly calm high winds that forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami called “a very conducive environment for strengthening.”

A satellite image released Monday by NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) shows Tropical Storm Gamma, left, which soaked part of Mexico over the weekend and a strengthening Hurricane Delta, lower right, which is on a course to reach Yucatan by Tuesday night.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, as well as Cozumel. Delta could trigger storm surges in the Merida and Progreso region, which can expect thunderstorms and more flooding until the hours before sunrise Thursday.

Delta is the earliest 25th named storm to form in the Atlantic, beating the old record of Nov. 15, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

It had top winds of 80 mph / 130 kph Monday night and was about 180 miles / 295 kilometers south-southeast of Grand Cayman. It was moving west-northwest near 7 mph / 11 kph.

Gamma on Monday weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression and hit land near Telchac Puerto before sunrise Tuesday. The low-pressure system will continue to bring stormy conditions to Yucatan for at least two more days, possibly three.

Tizimin and Valladolid were particularly hard hit by the first storm. Rain barriers built after Storm Cristobal collapsed and TVs and furniture were seen floating in rising storm waters.

With information from The Associated Press

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