Eta Becomes a Major Hurricane, Further Strengthening Expected Before Landfall
Hurricane Eta rapidly intensified into a major hurricane Monday, and is now approaching Central America as a Category 4 storm. Eta is not a direct threat to the United States this week, but its remnant moisture and spin could spawn new tropical development in the Caribbean next week farther north.
As of 4 pm ET Monday, Hurricane Eta was located 70 miles east-southeast of the Nicaragua/Honduras border and had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Additional strengthening is expected before the storm makes landfall in Central America early Tuesday.
A Hurricane Warning remains in effect for the northeastern coast of Nicaragua where the eye wall of Eta is expected to move ashore. Catastrophic wind damage, life-threatening flooding, and high storm surge is forecast for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras as the hurricane moves over the region. The flood threat is anticipated to last through Friday evening across portions of Central America as Eta meanders over the region. Between 15 and 25 inches of rain, with isolated amounts up to 35 inches, will be possible for much of Nicaragua and Honduras. Heavy and continuous rainfall could cause widespread flooding and landslides in high terrain locations.
Life-threatening storm surge is also anticipated along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua near and to the north of where Eta makes landfall. Water levels could reach as high as 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The powerful hurricane is expected to weaken gradually over Central America through the rest of the work week before turning north-northeasterly and exiting back out into the western Caribbean by Friday. Eta is not anticipated to be a direct threat to the United States this week. However, environmental conditions are expected to remain favorable with high sea surface temperatures and minimal vertical wind shear which could aid in Eta reforming by the weekend. A secondary scenario is that Eta dissipates and another tropical system forms in the same general region. It is too soon to determine whether this system may have an impact on the coastlines of the United States, but it certainly warrants close monitoring.
Eta is the twelfth hurricane overall, and fifth major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It is the strongest November hurricane since Category 4 Hurricane Paloma in 2008 and only the fourth Category 4 cyclone to form in the month of November on record.