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Delta Takes Aim At The Northern Gulf

National Weather Service

Fresh from dealing with Hurricane Sally, residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast now have a new storm for which to prepare.

Tropical Storm Delta is moving through the Caribbean, and forecasters say it will hit western Cuba and eventually the Gulf Coast, likely as a hurricane.

“If this sounds familiar, it sounds like a Category-2 hurricane coming to Louisiana that is expected to turn east – sounds a lot like Sally,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson during his weekly virtual news conference Monday.

Robinson said they’re monitoring the storm, and urges everyone else to do the same and prepare accordingly.

“We’ve been in contact with state and county and expect a declaration of emergency [Tuesday],” said the mayor. “Then the county will be laying out plans,” said the mayor. “Our staff and their staff have been working this [since Sunday]. We realize that it does appear very likely to have impact to our area.”

Meanwhile, debris cleanup continues in the Panhandle from Sally. The mayor is confident much of it can be picked up by week’s end, when the focus is expected to turn to Delta.

“This week we’re going to be working feverishly to get as much as we can up; but it is very likely that perhaps a quarter of Sally debris will not be picked up and be on the side of the road,” said Robinson. “At this point we begin to ask you to figure out a way to secure as much of that as you can. Because we’ll have to suspend service after Thursday.”

“The forecast path for Delta takes the storm into the Gulf of Mexico sometime late Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne at FPREN – the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.

“Then the storm is forecast to turn towards the north in the general direction of the north-central Gulf Coast,” Hawthorne said. “It looks like the storm is going to make landfall sometime on Friday. Tropical storm-force winds at the soonest would arrive late Thursday, but are most likely coming up on Friday.”

Delta’s forecast path at this point could be anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. Hawthorne says we’ll know more later in the week, but what’s now known is that Delta will intensify.

“The water is quite warm over the northwestern Caribbean – between 85 and 87 [degrees,]” said Hawthorne. That’s also the case in the southern Gulf of Mexico too. The upper-level winds are forecast to be light; and those two things strongly favor intensification.”

But as the storm gets closer to the northern Gulf Coast, Hawthorne says it will encounter cooler water temperatures.

“And the reason why is because we had a cold front move through last week; and that has cooled off the shelf waters a little bit,” Hawthorne said. “So there’s some chance that the storm could weaken some, as it approaches the Gulf Coast, but by how much is certainly hard to determine at this point.”

One concern involves the construction barges used by Skanska on the new Three Mile Bridge project. More than 20 barges broke loose during Sally, damaging the bridge and private property.

“We are communicating with [the Department of Transportation], It is our expectation that they will get with Skanska,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “There’s been a lot of questions about what’s going to happen with the barges that are out there.”

They’re concerned about the barges, says Robinson, but will make do the best they can.

“Many of the barges are on land, and we would have to have a significant storm surge, the same as we had with Sally to even to begin to refloat those,” said the mayor.

A spokeswoman for Skanska declined to be interviewed, but in a written statement said the company has deployed personnel from around the country to address retrieval of the barges.