Eta is unleashing heavy rains and intense winds.
Hurricane Eta lashed Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast on Tuesday morning, unleashing heavy rainfall and intense winds, knocking out power, causing flooding and tearing corrugated metal roofs off homes in one of the country’s poorest regions, Nicaraguan officials said.
Despite the storm’s ferocity, however, Guillermo González, director of the country’s emergency management agency, said in a news conference there had been no reports of injuries or deaths, The Associated Press reported.
But even as the Category 4 hurricane pounded the Nicaraguan coast, there appeared to be disagreement between Nicaraguan and U.S. authorities about where the storm was.
Nicaragua’s disaster management agency reported on Twitter that the eye of Eta had made landfall at 5:30 Eastern time, south of the port town of Puerto Cabezas.
But the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a 10 a.m. advisory that the hurricane was still some 30 miles south-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, moving west-southwest at 5 miles per hour, and was expected to make landfall sometime Tuesday.
“Life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides expected across portions of Central America,” the Hurricane Center advisory said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for a stretch of the Nicaraguan coast from the border with Honduras in the north to Sandy Bay Sirpi.
The storm was expected to move over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday morning and then across central portions of Honduras by Thursday morning, losing strength as it leaves the Caribbean behind, the Hurricane Center said.
In addition to catastrophic wind damage, forecasters said the hurricane could dump as much as 25 inches of rain on much of Nicaragua and Honduras, with volumes reaching 35 inches in some locations. Eastern Guatemala and Belize were expected to receive between 10 and 20 inches, while portions of Panama and Costa Rica could see between 10 and 15 inches.
Forecasters also warned of a storm surge of as much as 21 feet above normal tide levels along the Nicaragua coast, and swells causing “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” along the Caribbean coast in Central America and the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.
It’s been a busy hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Eta is the 28th named storm — and the 12th hurricane — in the Atlantic hurricane season, and has tied a record set in 2005 for the most storms that have grown strong enough to be named.
Only three other Atlantic hurricane seasons on record have had at least 12 hurricanes: 1969 (12 hurricanes); 2005 (15 hurricanes); and 2010 (12 hurricanes), said Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
In 2005, as with this year, so many storms grew strong enough to be named 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 got to Eta, however, because the 28th storm of that year — a subtropical storm that formed briefly in October near the Azores — was not identified until the season was over.
With about a month left in the 2020 hurricane season, the 2005 record for the most named storms is likely to be broken, Mr. Klotzbach said.
“The odds certainly favor another storm or two forming in November,” he said. “The large-scale environment, especially in the Caribbean, is forecast to remain more conducive than normal for this late in the hurricane season.”
Eta followed Hurricane Zeta, which landed on Oct. 28 in Louisiana as a Category 2 storm, killing at least six people and causing widespread power outages in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.
The hurricanes of 2020 have not matched the intensity of the storms of 2005. That year, eight storms became major hurricanes, which are defined as those that reach Category 3 or higher. But the effects of the 2020 season across the South of the United States have been widespread.
Hurricane Laura battered Lake Charles, La., in late August; Hurricane Sally lashed the Florida Panhandle with a deluge of rain in September; and Hurricane Delta made landfall in October in Louisiana less than 20 miles east of where Laura struck, slamming the area as it was still trying to recover.
Government scientists pointed to factors like higher-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean, a strong African monsoon season and a reduced vertical wind shear, which means less wind variability at different altitudes that can disrupt the formation of storms.
Climate scientists say there are links between global warming and the intensity of hurricanes. As ocean temperatures rise, hurricanes grow stronger, with warm water serving as the fuel that powers them.
The Nicaraguan authorities rushed on Monday to evacuate inhabitants from low-lying areas along the Caribbean coast and ship in emergency supplies as Hurricane Eta neared landfall.
The Nicaraguan government sent 88 tons of food to the port town of Puerto Cabezas ahead of the storm, according Nicaragua’s national disaster response agency.
Officials also dispatched four trailers loaded with supplies including mattresses and hygiene kits, the agency said, and sent food supplies including rice, oil and protein supplements.
“In this way, the government of Nicaragua will be able to provide quick and effective humanitarian aid to families,” said Dr. Guillermo González, the director of the agency, the National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention.
Officials said that more than 3,000 families had been evacuated from coastal areas, according to local press reports. In Honduras, evacuations were also underway on Monday, and severe weather conditions had forced the closure of some ports, Reuters reported.
Forecasts include ‘jaw-dropping’ levels of rain.
Eta is bringing powerful winds and a huge storm surge as it makes landfall, threatening coastal areas in Honduras and Nicaragua. But the hurricane is also expected to cause damage farther inland, as it churns across southeast Mexico and parts of a half dozen or more countries in Central America and the Caribbean by Friday.
The strength and expected path of Eta recalls Hurricane Mitch, from 1998, which killed more than 11,000 people, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua. Heavy rains exacerbated by Mitch’s slow march across the region triggered devastating flooding and mudslides.
“While it is interesting #Eta has tied the 2005 named storm record, much more serious is the extreme rain event in Nicaragua and Honduras,” Eric Blake, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “A forecast of 30 inches of rain is jaw-dropping, and we could be looking at one of the worst flooding disasters there since Mitch.”
The National Hurricane Center has raised the forecast for Eta to 35 inches of rain in parts of Nicaragua and Honduras. The National Hurricane Center also warned of flash flooding and river flooding across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti as well as the Cayman Islands.