The immediate brunt of the storm is expected to be felt by the resort-studded northeastern tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, which is forecast to start seeing hurricane conditions today with the storm reaching land in the early hours of Wednesday.

This NOAA/GOES satellite image shows Hurricane Delta over the Caribbean Sea early on October 6, 2020.
This NOAA/GOES satellite image shows Hurricane Delta over the Caribbean Sea early on October 6, 2020. (AFP)

Hurricane Delta has intensified into a Category 3 storm and is set to slam into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early on Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to 115 miles (185 kilometres) per hour, and the storm is "forecast to be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane" when it makes landfall, the US National Hurricane Center said.

As Delta shifted west on Monday, Cuba withdrew a hurricane warning for its western province of Pinar del Rio and replaced it with a tropical storm warning. There was also a tropical storm warning for the Cayman Islands including Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Tulum and Cozumel, resorts still being soaked by the remnants of Tropical Storm Gamma.

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Delta to strengthen further

Data from a US Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Delta's will continue to strengthen as its forward speed increases, the US Hurricane Center said. 

It's expected to hit the Yucatan as a major hurricane on Wednesday before moving over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. Forecasters warned of an extremely dangerous storm surge raising water levels by as much as 2 to 3 metres, accompanied by large and dangerous waves, and flash flooding inland.

Delta “presents an important danger for the coastal regions” because of the storm surge in the lower parts of Quintana Roo, such as the resorts of Cancun, Holbox island or Isla Mujeres, Jorge Zavala, head of Mexico’s meteorological service, said in a press conference late Monday.

Zavala said preventative evacuations would begin on Tuesday morning.

Forecasters said the hurricane was moving into an area with very warm water and nearly calm high winds that forecasters at the hurricane centre called "a very conducive environment for strengthening".

Delta’s centre early Monday was about 675 kilometres east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, moving west-northwest at 24 kph.

Once it has inflicted its damage on Mexico, Delta is expected to make landfall along the central US Gulf Coast around Friday and bring heavy rainfall into the southeastern United States.

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

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Source: AP