Gov. Tate Reeves (right) and Executive Director of MEMA Col. Gregory S. Michel at a press conference at the State of Mississippi Woolfolk Building in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Hurricane Delta on Thursday appeared on track for landfall in Louisiana, but Gov. Tate Reeves and emergency officials warned Mississippi will feel its effects, both wind and rain, starting late Friday afternoon.

Reeves and others warned that its track could shift and Mississippians should remain “weather aware” through the weekend.

Southwestern and western Mississippi along the Mississippi River could see winds up to 65 mph, rainfall of 4-6 inches and spinoff tornadoes. The rest of the state could see rainfall of 1-2 inches and gusty winds before the storm exits Mississippi through the Corinth area in the early hours of Sunday, if it keeps its current track toward a landfall around Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“This thing is about 27 or 28 hours from making landfall,” Reeves said. “And it’s just not that far from the Louisiana-Texas line to the Mississippi-Alabama line in terms of where these things can shift.”

Hurricane Delta weakened after a brief landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but reorganized and strengthened on Thursday into a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Forecasters expected it to continue to strengthen through Thursday night and could reach Category 3 or higher before U.S. landfall.

Hurricanes are rated on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale from 1-5, with Category 3 and higher considered major hurricanes. The scale is:

  • Category 1: wind 74-95 mph
  • Category 2: wind 96-110 mph
  • Category 3: wind 111-129 mph
  • Category 4: wind 130-156 mph
  • Category 5: wind 157 mph or higher

Reeves declared a state of emergency for Mississippi on Wednesday, and the White House approved the declaration, freeing federal funds if needed. Reeves said Mississippi is also prepared to help Louisiana if needed.

Mississippi Emergency Management Director Greg Michel said 161,000 sandbags had been delivered for use in southwest Mississippi and 11 shelters were on standby to open if needed, with three planning to open Friday. MEMA and the National Guard were staging people and supplies in case they’re needed.

Reeves on Wednesday repeated a term he uses often that Mississippi will “prepare for the worst, pray for the best and expect somewhere in between.”

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.