TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Delta continued its pattern of rapid strengthening and reached major Category 4 strength on Tuesday morning.

The National Hurricane Center said at 11 a.m. ET that NOAA Hurricane Hunters data indicated Delta had reached major Category 3 hurricane strength. Less than 30 minutes later, the NHC updated its advisory to say Hurricane Hunters data showed Delta had strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds.

At 5 p.m., the NHC reported Delta was about 215 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and 240 miles southwest of Grand Cayman. It’s moving west-northwest at 17 mph.

Delta is expected to pass the Cayman Islands Tuesday afternoon and move over the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula later in the night or early Wednesday.

After it passes the peninsula, Delta is forecast to move into the southern Gulf of Mexico and eventually reach the northern Gulf Coast of the United States later this week. While some weakening is expected when Delta moves over the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s expected to re-strengthen again when it moves over the Gulf.

“The potential for heavy rain and flash flooding will increase across portions of the central Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley and southeastern United states as Delta moves inland later this week,” the NHC said. “There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds, especially along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning on Friday.”

Several watches and warnings have been issued in Mexico ahead of Delta reaching the Yucatan Peninsula.

Hurricane Warning in effect for:

  • Tulum to Dzilam, Mexico
  • Cozumel

Tropical Storm Warning in effect for:

  • Cuba province of Pinar del Rio
  • Isle of Youth
  • Punta Herrero to Tulum
  • Dzilam to Progresso

Post-Tropical Cyclone Gamma

Gamma weakened to a tropical depression Monday and was declared a post-tropical cyclone by Monday night.

At least 6 people died and thousands were evacuated as the storm lashed the Yucatán Peninsula over the weekend.

The NHC issued its final advisory on Gamma at 10 p.m. ET Monday. The storm is expected to dissipate by Wednesday but the hurricane center said periods of heavy rainfall are possible Tuesday night.