The storm will unleash damaging winds and trigger life-threatening flooding. Some areas could receive up to 50 inches of rain.
- The hurricane is expected to bring “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides.”
- The storm strengthened rapidly Monday, with winds at one point hitting 150 mph.
- Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms.
Hurricane Eta made landfall Tuesday afternoon along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane.
The storm was expected to bring “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides across portions of Central America” this week, the National Hurricane Center said.
Heavy rain from Eta’s outer bands already were causing rivers to overflow across Central America.
As of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, the center of Hurricane Eta was about 15 miles south-southwest of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, the Hurricane Center said.
The storm had strengthened rapidly Monday. Winds at one point hit 150 mph.
Tuesday afternoon, maximum sustained winds were near 140 mph with higher gusts. Weakening will begin after the center moves inland later Tuesday. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 25 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 125 miles.
More: Hurricane Eta gains historic strength, could reach Category 5 status when it hits Central America on Tuesday
Early Tuesday, Guillermo González, director of the Nicaragua’s emergency management agency, said in a news conference that as Eta began to make landfall there were reports of corrugated metal roofs flying off homes, trees, poles and power lines falling, and rivers rising in the coastal area.
No deaths or injuries were reported, he said.
The storm made landfall near Bilwi, the main coastal city in the region. About 10,000 people were in shelters in that city, and an equal amount were sheltered in smaller towns across the region, he said. The area had been lashed with strong winds and heavy rain for hours.
A rare, Category 4 Hurricane Eta hit Nicaragua with 140-mile-per-hour winds, and could eventually make it’s way to the United States.
Authorities in Nicaragua and Honduras had moved people Monday from outer islands and low-lying areas to shelters. Residents scrambled to shore up their homes, but few structures along Nicaragua’s remote Caribbean coast were built to withstand such force.
At a shelter in Bilwi, farmer Pedro Down waited late Monday for Eta’s arrival. “When it comes it can rip off all the (roof) and destroy the house, so you have to look for a safer place,” he said, cradling a baby in his arms. “So I came here to save our lives.”
Locals remain in shelters while waiting for the passage of Hurricane Eta, in Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, on Nov. 2, 2020. Eta rapidly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it bore down on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, threatening the Central American countries with catastrophic winds and floods. (Photo: INTI OCON, AFP via Getty Images)
Along Honduras’ northern Caribbean coast, torrential rains from Eta’s outer bands caused some rivers to overwhelm their banks Monday, forcing evacuations.
It could be only the beginning of Eta’s destruction. The storm was forecast to spend the week meandering over Central America, dumping rain measured in feet, not inches.
Forecasters said central and northern Nicaragua into much of Honduras could get 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 35 inches in isolated areas. Heavy rains also were likely in eastern Guatemala, southern Belize and Jamaica.
A storm surge of about 21 feet above normal tides was possible for the coast of Nicaragua, forecasters said.
Forecasters say Eta could have similar impact on Central America to that of Hurricane Mitch from 1998, according to AccuWeather. Mitch struck around the same point of the season, meandered over Central America for days and unloaded torrential rainfall. More than 11,000 people lost their lives because of catastrophic flooding from Mitch, AccuWeather said.
Eta is the 12th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms, said Philip Klotzbach, meteorologist at Colorado State University, who specializes in Atlantic basin hurricane forecasts.
Eta is the strongest Atlantic hurricane this late in the calendar year since Otto in 2016, Klotzbach said.
Hurricane season continues until Nov. 30.
Will Eta affect the US?
It’s still too early to determine whether the United States will feel any impact from Hurricane Eta. After landfall, Eta is forecast to curve back into the Caribbean, and most models showed it passing over or through Cuba.
Beyond Central America, Eta or a spin-off storm from Eta may meander northeast over the Caribbean Sea. In that case, effects in Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas would not be out of the question during the second week of November, according to AccuWeather. It also is possible that Eta dissipates over Central America.
Hurricane Eta track
Contributing: The Associated Press
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