The storm increased in strength as it neared land.
Eta, a strong Category 4 hurricane, continued to gain strength as it neared the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, where it was expected to land early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
As of 10 p.m. east on Monday, the storm was about 45 miles east of Puerto Cabezas, a Nicaraguan port city, and had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. The storm was moving from west to southwest at a rate of 7 miles per hour.
“Life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds, flash floods and landslides in parts of Central America,” said a report from the Hurricane Center.
A hurricane warning was in effect for part of the Nicaraguan coast from the border with Honduras in the north to Sandy Bay Sirpi.
The storm should spread through northern Nicaragua by Wednesday evening and central parts of Honduras on Thursday and lose strength as it leaves the Caribbean behind, the Hurricane Center said.
In addition to the catastrophic wind damage, forecasters said the hurricane could shed up to 25 inches of rain on much of Nicaragua and Honduras, with the volume reaching 35 inches in some places. Eastern Guatemala and Belize should get between 10 and 20 inches while parts of Panama and Costa Rica could see between 10 and 15 inches.
Forecasters also warned of storm surges up to 21 feet above normal tide levels along the Nicaraguan coast and swelling that created “life-threatening surf and rip conditions” along the Caribbean coast in Central America and on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
A busy hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Eta is the 28th named storm – and the 12th hurricane – in the Atlantic hurricane season and sets a record for the most named storms in 2005.
Only three other registered Atlantic hurricane seasons had at least 12 hurricanes: 1969 (12 hurricanes); 2005 (15 hurricanes); and 2010 (12 hurricanes), said Philip Klotzbach, a scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
As in this year, so many storms grew so strong in 2005 that meteorologists had to resort to the Greek alphabet after exhausting the list of rotating names maintained by the World Meteorological Organization.
The agency never came to Eta, however, as this year’s 28th storm – a subtropical storm that formed briefly in October near the Azores – was only identified after the season was over.
With around a month into the 2020 hurricane season, the 2005 record for the most frequently mentioned storms is likely to be broken, Klotzbach said.
“The chances are another storm or two will form in November,” he said. “The large scale environment, particularly in the Caribbean, is expected to remain more favorable than normal at this late point in hurricane season.”
Eta followed Hurricane Zeta, which landed in Louisiana as a Category 2 storm on October 28, killing at least six people, and causing widespread power outages in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.
The hurricanes of 2020 did not reach the intensity of the storms of 2005. This year, eight storms became major hurricanes, defined as those reaching Category 3 or higher. However, the effects of the 2020 season in the southern United States have been widespread.
Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles, La., In late August. Hurricane Sally hit the Florida Panhandle with a flood of rain in September. and Hurricane Delta landed in Louisiana in October, less than 20 miles east of Laura, and struck the area while it was still trying to recover.
Government scientists pointed to factors such as above-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, a strong African monsoon season, and decreased vertical wind shear, which means less wind variability at different altitudes, which can disrupt the formation of storms.
Climate researchers say there are links between global warming and the intensity of hurricanes. As sea temperatures rise, hurricanes get stronger, with warm water serving as fuel for them.
Evacuations and emergency aid in Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguan authorities rushed to evacuate residents from lower areas along the Caribbean coast and send them to emergency supplies on Monday as Hurricane Eta approached the landing.
The Nicaraguan government sent 88 tons of food to the port city of Puerto Cabezas before the storm, according to Nicaragua’s national civil protection agency.
Officials also sent four trailers loaded with supplies including mattresses and hygiene kits, and sent food supplies including rice, oil and protein additives.
“In this way, the Nicaraguan government can provide humanitarian aid to families quickly and effectively,” said Dr. Guillermo González, Director of the Agency for the National Civil Protection, Mitigation and Awareness System.
According to local press reports, more than 3,000 families have been evacuated from coastal areas. Evacuations were also under way in Honduras on Monday and storms had forced some ports to close, Reuters reported.