Miami/Managua, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- Eta is projected to make landfall Tuesday along Nicaragua’s northeastern coast as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane and unleash a range of hazards there and in nearby countries.
Eta, the 12th hurricane of the highly active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened from a tropical storm to a major hurricane over a period of just 15 hours on Monday.
In its latest bulletin at 10 am (1500 GMT), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center characterized Eta as “extremely dangerous” and said that among the severe hazards expected to affect land is a massive storm surge that could raise water levels to as much as six meters (21 feet) above normal tide levels within the hurricane warning area.
Catastrophic wind damage also is expected over the next several hours in coastal areas affected by Eta’s eye wall, while torrential rains are projected to trigger life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, as well as mudslides in higher-elevation areas of Central America.
Rainfall amounts associated with the storm system are forecast to total between 380 and 635 millimeters (15 and 25 inches) throughout much of Nicaragua and Honduras, while eastern Guatemala and Belize are projected to receive between 255 mm and 510 mm of rain.
Isolated rainfall amounts in Nicaragua and Honduras could even climb to as much as 890 mm.
The co-director of Nicaragua’s National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention (Sinapred), Guillermo Gonzalez, told reporters Tuesday that Eta has already begun to cause damage, including knocking down electrical pylons and power lines, toppling trees and tearing tin roofs off of homes.
Street flooding and swollen rivers also have been observed in communities of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, a large but sparsely populated area that is the poorest in Nicaragua and mainly inhabited by members of the Miskito and Mayangna indigenous groups.
Nicaraguan authorities say that 20,000 people have taken refuge in churches, schools and other storm shelters.
Nevertheless, coastal residents told local media that they lacked information about the hurricane because authorities did not provide them with timely information.
The NHC said at 10 am that Eta’s eye was located 50 kilometers (30 miles) south-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
The hurricane was packing maximum sustained winds of 230 km per hour (145 miles per hour) with even stronger gusts and moving to the west-southwest at seven km/hour (five mph).
A hurricane warning is in effect along a 240-km (150-mile) coastal stretch that runs from the Nicaragua-Honduras border to Sandy Bay Sirpi, a locality on Nicaragua’s east-central coast. No changes in Eta’s strength are expected before landfall.
After making landfall, a weakened Eta is projected to move over northern Nicaragua and the central portion of Honduras through Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, respectively. EFE-EPA