Satellite view of Hurricane Delta over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. (NASA)
October 12, 2020 at 1:06 PM EDT
Just when the record-setting 2020 Atlantic hurricane season seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, Hurricane Delta exploded in the northwest Caribbean one week ago, plotting a devastating course from the Yucatán Peninsula to the northern Gulf Coast. It crashed into Cancún and Cozumel on Wednesday before regrouping over the Gulf of Mexico and slamming into storm-weary Louisiana on Friday night. This was the second hurricane strike in six weeks in southwest Louisiana.
Residents from Lake Charles to Lafayette now find themselves cleaning up from yet another vicious storm, a process that will take months or longer to complete.
Louisiana officials survey hurricane’s devastation and wonder how much federal aid they can expect
Here are the numbers that help tell the story of Delta, and its effects on a storm-weary region.
13 miles: The distance between Category 2 Delta’s landfall in Creole, La., at 7 p.m. Friday, and Category 4 Hurricane Laura’s landfall in Cameron, La., on Aug. 27.
43 days: The interval between Hurricane Laura’s landfall and Hurricane Delta.
Hurricane Laura by the numbers
10th U.S. landfall: Delta became the 10th named storm to hit the United States in 2020, the most ever recorded in a single year, surpassing the nine that hit land in 1916. Few locations along the U.S. and Atlantic Gulf Coasts have remained untouched.
101 mph: While Delta was less ferocious than Laura when it crashed ashore, its damaging winds were more widespread and packed a wallop. Some of the strongest gusts were observed to the west of the center, which is somewhat unusual. A top gust to 101 mph was recorded at Texas Point, at the state border with Louisiana.
A number of gusts exceeding 90 mph were clocked in Delta’s landfall zone. Lake Charles gusted to 95 mph after enduring a gust to 137 mph during Laura.
680,000: At their peak, nearly 700,000 customers in Louisiana lost electricity. Although high winds from Delta weren’t quite as intense as those from Laura, they covered more ground and resulted in more extensive power outages. However, because the damage to utility lines was less severe from Delta, crews have been able to restore electricity more quickly. As of Monday morning, just 188,000 customers were without power.
In addition to the Louisiana outages, more than 100,000 customers lost power in Texas and about 70,000 in Mississippi for a total of over 850,000 customers overall.
9,000: More than 9,000 Louisianans remain in shelters, most of them having been displaced by Laura.
9.3 feet: At Freshwater Canal Locks, La., located south-southwest of Lafayette, La., the surge, or storm-driven rise in ocean water, reached 9.3 feet. This validated the National Hurricane Center’s forecast for a peak surge of seven to 11 feet.
Observed water levels at Freshwater Canal Locks during Hurricane Delta. (NOAA)
Because the peak surge coincided with low tide, that equated to 8.32 feet of inundation above ground level. This water level is the highest on record at this location, exceeding the 8.02 feet during Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The 9.3-foot surge at Freshwater Canal Locks is just one data point and it’s likely a higher maximum surge occurred elsewhere. Additional surge numbers will become available after the National Hurricane Center examines all data.
One month after Laura made landfall, the Hurricane Center found it produced a 17.2-foot surge in Rutherford Beach, La., which is about 50 miles to the west of Freshwater Canal Locks.
17.57 inches: Although Delta moved along at a speedy clip when it made landfall, portions of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi saw at least six to 12 inches of rain. The Calcasieu Parish Police, just to the northwest of the storm track, recorded 17.57 inches.
Numerous locations picked up 12 to 15 inches, after many parts of Louisiana had received similar rainfall totals from Laura.
3.5 million people: Within Delta’s swath of torrential rainfall, a sizable chunk of Louisiana as well as parts of surrounding states received at least five inches of rain. Persistent, heavy rain bands even impacted northeast Georgia and the Atlanta metro area. In the end, at least 3.5 million people saw five inches of rain.
25: When it formed one week ago, Delta became the earliest 25th named storm in the Atlantic on record by more than a month. It marked the fourth storm drawn from the Greek alphabet, as the 21 names from the conventional storm list had been used up.
1st Greek-alphabet hurricane: When Delta made landfall in Louisiana, it marked the first time a hurricane named from the Greek alphabet had struck the United States.
1964: The last time Louisiana saw a Category 2 or stronger storm make landfall in October.
2005: The last time Louisiana had two or more landfalling hurricanes in the same year. That occurred when the infamous combo of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit (Cindy also struck earlier in the season). Additionally, Delta was the fourth named storm to make landfall in the state this year — along with Cristobal, Laura and Marco — which ties 2002 for the most on record.
36 hours: The time it took Delta to strengthen from a tropical depression with 35-mph winds to a Category 4 hurricane (with 145 mph winds) while in the northwest Caribbean, a rate faster than any previous storm on record.
Such rapid intensification is becoming more common in a warming world, as ocean temperatures increase from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere owing to human activity.
A journey inside Hurricane Delta’s assault on Louisiana
17: Delta likely became 2020′s 17th billion-dollar weather disaster in the United States, a record. Through September, 16 billion-dollar weather disasters had occurred this year, tying the record number from 2011 and 2017. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 is the sixth year in a row with at least 10 billion-dollar weather disasters.
2020’s billion-dollar weather disasters through September. Map does not include Hurricane Delta. (NOAA)
Three storms: If 2020 produces three more named storms in the Atlantic, it will tie 2005 for the most on record at 28. With some signs already pointing to more storm activity, and six weeks officially remaining in the hurricane season, that record seems within reach.
Jason Samenow is The Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang’s chief meteorologist. He earned a master’s degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association. Follow
Ian Livingston is a forecaster/photographer and information lead for the Capital Weather Gang. By day, Ian is a defense and national security researcher at a D.C. think tank. Follow
© 1996-2020 The Washington Post