(Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Delta continues to strengthen and will likely become a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico later this week, clipping Cuba before becoming the record 10th storm to hit the U.S. when it makes landfall between Louisiana and Florida by Friday.
The storm’s winds built to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour Monday and could reach 105 mph as it crosses the Gulf later this week, making it a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Monday. It could even become a Category 3 major hurricane, said Adam Douty, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc.
Delta is this year’s 25th named system, only the second time that mark has been reached in records going back to 1851. It’s also the earliest point at which that many storms have been recorded. If it does strike the Gulf Coast, it would be a record 10th storm to hit the U.S. this year, Douty said. An all-time high of 28 storms formed in 2005, including deadly Hurricane Katrina, which inundated New Orleans.
On its current path, the storm will likely cause oil and natural gas production offshore of Louisiana to shut down, and it poses a threat to onshore refineries and shipping, said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist with the Energy Weather Group. Output from the Gulf has been disrupted several times this year from tropical storms and hurricanes moving through the region.
“Expect widespread shut-ins of rigs and platforms across the upper Gulf Coast over next two days.” Rouiller said. “Significant impact and disruption to the U.S. energy production area of the upper Gulf is likely as the week wears on.”
The storm is still south of Jamaica and is gathering strength as it moves toward the Cayman Islands, where a tropical storm warning has been issued, the center said. A hurricane warning has also been posted for parts Cuba.
The National Hurricane Center has used up all the names on its official list and has begun designating systems with Greek letters.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gamma is weakening as it slides along the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, bring flooding rains and the potential for mudslides across the region.
(Updates strength in second paragraph.)
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