Conditions “appear favorable for strengthening” over the next 12 hours, “and based on this additional intensification is expected tonight,” the center said in its latest forecast discussion.
The mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana, which was hit hard by Laura, made a last-ditch plea asking people to evacuate the area.
And with the storm’s range due to grow, hurricane-force winds could extend across a stretch of the Texas coast.
Delta will be a “large storm that will extend 140 miles from its center,” with gusts reaching the Baton Rouge area, Ben Schott, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service station in New Orleans, said Thursday.
“You don’t have any time after today to prepare for this storm,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “Tomorrow will be too late.”
Hurricane warning expanded
Delta’s maximum sustained winds have increased to 115 miles per hour as it moves northwest at 12 mph, still about 310 miles south of Cameron, Louisiana, the hurricane center said at 8 p.m. ET Thursday. Storm surge is still expected to reach as high as 11 feet in some places, and hurricane-force winds are expected to reach the coast Friday afternoon, the NHC said.
A hurricane warning has expanded west and now stretches from High Island in Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana. A storm surge warning is in effect from High Island to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne.
On Thursday, a tropical storm warning was added for the Texas coast west of San Luis Pass to Sargent, the National Hurricane Center said.
Residents urged to evacuate
In Lake Charles, where blue tarps still cover the shredded roofs of homes damaged by Laura, the mayor urged residents to evacuate by Thursday night.
“I can tell you that we as city employees are going to move heaven and earth and leave no stone unturned to get people out of Lake Charles,” Hunter said in the video.
Kerry Anderson, whose Lake Charles home was damaged by Laura, said residents are “worn out” by repairing their community while facing the threat of another major hurricane.
“I think, really, the word is disbelief,” she told CNN affiliate KPRC. “Like, how could this be happening again?”
All of Cameron Parish — the furthest west along Louisiana’s coast — is under a mandatory evacuation order, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook Thursday.
Other areas under mandatory evacuation orders include residents in low-lying areas in Vermilion Parish and the town of Grand Isle.
Parts of Louisiana could see up to 11 feet of water
Delta could unleash a powerful storm surge and tide that will flood areas near the coast that are usually dry, the National Hurricane Center said.
Areas from Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to Port Fourchon in Louisiana, including Vermilion Bay, could see up to 11 feet of water, while places from Holly Beach, Louisiana, to the refuge could see up to 7 feet of water, the hurricane center said.
Areas between High Island, Texas, and Sabine Island, Louisiana, are expected to see between 2 and 4 feet of storm surge. The mouth of the Mississippi River could see the same.
Delta also could also drop up to 10 inches of rain Friday and Saturday southwest into south-central Louisiana, the center said. As the storm moves further inland, the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic could also see several inches of rain.
Devastated communities await another disaster
More than 10,000 homes in southwest Louisiana were destroyed in the storm, and 35,000 homes sustained “major damage,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Wednesday news conference.
More than 6,000 evacuees from that storm remain in hotels throughout Louisiana, while another 2,000 are housed in Texas, he said.
“This is the reality that many homeowners are facing as we prepare for Delta,” Edwards said. “Obviously, it’s not a very good situation.”
Lynn Connor, a Lake Charles resident, is spending Thursday preparing his home for the impending storm.
“I kind of wish it was going somewhere else, but it doesn’t look like it,” he told CNN affiliate KPRC. “Got to get all my loose stuff up.”
Texas also preps for Delta
In Texas, the governor announced the state was preparing resources so it could be ready to respond.
“As Hurricane Delta moves through the Gulf, the State of Texas is supporting communities along the Gulf Coast and providing the resources they need to respond to this storm,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release.
“Texans in the path of this storm should continue to heed the guidance and direction of local officials, remain cautious, and remember – Turn Around, Don’t Drown. We will continue to monitor Hurricane Delta and work alongside our local partners to keep Texans safe.”
The storm will mostly avoid states along the eastern Gulf Coast.
Still, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, urging residents to “prep for the worst.”
“At this time, the heaviest rain and strongest wind is projected to be felt Friday afternoon through midday Saturday across Southwest Mississippi and further north along the Mississippi River,” the governor’s office said in a Wednesday statement.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey canceled a mandatory evacuation order for communities along the Alabama Gulf Coast, saying “projections have become evident and remained fairly consistent in that Southwest Louisiana looks to be in the direct path of this storm.”
CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Kay Jones and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.