Hurricane Eta went through a rapid intensification Monday, strengthening by 80 mph in 24 hours to become a ferocious 150 mph Category 4 hurricane, and is now tied with Hurricane Laura for the strongest Atlantic hurricane yet of the 2020 season.
Eta maintained its intensity as a Category 4 storm as the sun rose Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. The storm slowed to a 5 mph crawling pace, even though it’s still expected make landfall on Nicaragua, and it could spend hours inching toward land while pummeling the coast with ferocious winds, torrential rain and lashing storm surge.
During the day Tuesday, Eta is forecast to produce catastrophic wind gusts of over 100 mph, destructive storm surge up to 14-21 feet, and rainfall amounts up to 35 inches. These impacts will lead to life-threatening conditions for anyone in the path.
Due to Eta’s slow forward motion, the 2-3 feet of expected rainfall is particularly concerning. The National Hurricane Center warned that deadly flooding could last through Friday for the region.
“This rainfall will lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America. Flash flooding and river flooding will be possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands.”
Unfortunately, Eta is expected to linger and is forecast to move across Nicaragua and Honduras through Thursday. This weekend, Eta may redevelop over the northwest Caribbean, and by early next week some forecast models track it northeast somewhere between the Gulf of Mexico and Cuba.
There is high uncertainty in this forecast and it is too early for more details, but people in the U.S. should keep an eye on this forecast going into next week.
Eta’s intensity is rare for a November storm. At 150 mph, it became the 3rd strongest November hurricane on record.
It is also the 5th major hurricane of the 2020 season, and 3rd major hurricane to form since Oct. 1 – another record for a season of record-breaking activity.