Miami, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- Hurricane Eta increased to a Category 4 storm very quickly and is now near the northeastern coast of Nicaragua, where it is predicted to make landfall on Monday night or Tuesday morning, according to the most recent advisory from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
Eta currently is packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers (133 miles) per hour, after on Monday afternoon becoming a “major” hurricane, which on the Saffir-Simpson scale means storms of Cat 3, 4 or 5.
The storm will bring to Central America heavy winds and rain, sudden flooding and mudslides, the NHC said.
At 2100 GMT, the NHC said, Eta was located about 110 km east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras, and 130 km east-northeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
The hurricane, the 12th storm so far during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, is moving at 5 kph in a west-southwesterly direction.
Soon, it will make a slow turn toward the west-northwest and will continue along that path on Tuesday during which time its winds will gain in strength.
According to its predicted trajectory, the center of the storm will approach the northeastern Nicaraguan coast in the coming hours and make landfall somewhere between the Honduran border and Sandy Bay Sirpi as a major hurricane.
A Cat 4 storm packs winds of between 210 and 251 kph and the lower threshold for Cat 5 storms is maximum sustained winds of 252 kph.
After it makes landfall and subsequently weakens, Eta will remain over northern Nicaragua until Wednesday morning.
The entire region has been put on a hurricane alert, but other warnings have been issued by the NHC for the northeastern Honduran coast from Punta Patuca to the Nicaraguan border and for the northern Honduran coast from Punta Patuca west to Punta Castilla.
The hurricane force winds extend out 35 km from the storm center and tropical storm force winds (which are weaker) extend out up to 205 km.
Apart from the wind and rain, which will affect not only Nicaragua and Honduras but also Guatemala, Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, southeastern Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands, the greatest danger is from storm surge accompanied by heavy waves and rip currents.
The sea could rise by 5.4 meters (17.7 feet) above its normal level within the zone under a hurricane warning and up to 3 meters along the Honduran coast.
The storm surge will affect parts of the Central American coast and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the coming days.
This is the first time that the name Eta has been utilized for a storm, this being the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, which is used only when all the names on the yearly list of 21 storm names has been exhausted. The fact that Eta is being used this year means that this is a record year for the number of storms forming during the Atlantic hurricane season.
So far this year, there have been 28 named tropical storms, of which 12 have become hurricanes, and the hurricane season does not officially end until Nov. 30, during which time more storms could conceivably form.