In less than 24 hours, Tropical Storm Eta rapidly strengthened, exceeding forecasts, to a major Category 4 Hurricane as it bears down on the Nicaraguan coast. It is now explicitly forecast to become a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 MPH (260 KM/H), gusts to 195 MPH (315 KM/H) and storm surge between 14 to 21 feet (4.2 to 6.4 meters).
While catastrophic damage is expected where these winds make landfall due to winds and storm surge, the next major hazard will be torrential, prolonged rainfall across Central America producing life-threatening flooding and landslides.
Eta has made some notable (and concerning) records:
- Tied with Hurricane Laura for the strongest Atlantic Hurricane for 2020 with maximum sustained winds of 150 MPH (240 KM/H), though Eta could make a run at Category 5 strength before landfall early Tuesday.
- Strongest Greek-named storm in Atlantic history, surpassing Delta’s maximum sustained winds of 145 MPH (230 KM/H).
- 5th Atlantic November hurricane that has attained Category 4 strength, joining the Cuba Hurricane (1932), Lenny (1999), Michelle (2001), and Paloma (2008).
- 5th hurricane in the Atlantic in a row to rapidly intensify. In fact, in 18 hours, it went from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane. It is now tied with Hurricane Wilma (2005) for the fasted intensification in modern records.
With the formation of Eta, 2020 has tied 2005’s record for the most number of tropical storms at 28. It has not broken the number of tropical depressions, which is at 28 for 2020 while in 2005, 31 tropical depressions formed.
Eta has become the earliest 28th named storm in Atlantic history, edging out 2005’s version of Zeta which formed on December 30th. This is the first time Eta has been used in Atlantic history.
Eta is the 12th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to date. Only 3 other full Atlantic hurricane seasons on record have had 12+ hurricanes: 1969 (12 hurricanes), 2005 (15 hurricanes), and 2010 (12 hurricanes). As a major hurricane, it is also now the first time on record the Atlantic had three major hurricane formations in October and November. As the 5th major hurricane for 2020, Eta has joined seven other years in the satellite era (since 1966) that have had 5+ major Atlantic hurricanes by November 2: 1969, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2010, and 2017.
This tropical cyclone is not forecast to directly impact Trinidad, Tobago, or the Lesser Antilles. The tropical wave did produce floods, gusty winds, and landslides across parts of Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia over the past week.
At 11:00 PM AST, the center of the eye of dangerous Hurricane Eta was located by reconnaissance aircraft and radar from San Andreas near latitude 14.1 North, longitude 82.7 West. Eta is moving toward the west-southwest near 7 mph (11 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through early Tuesday. A slower westward or west-northwestward motion is forecast to begin by Tuesday afternoon and continue through Thursday. On the forecast track, the center of Eta is expected to make landfall along the coast of Nicaragua within the Hurricane Warning area early Tuesday. The center of Eta is forecast to move farther inland over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday night, and then move across central portions of Honduras on Thursday.
Reports from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph (240 km/h) with higher gusts. Eta is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some strengthening is forecast during the next 12 hours, and Eta could become a category 5 hurricane before it makes landfall. Weakening will begin after the cyclone moves inland. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft is currently investigating Eta and will provide more data tonight.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km).
The minimum central pressure based on data from the aircraft is estimated to be 927 millibars.
Watches & Warnings
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:
- The coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:
- The northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:
- The northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:
- The northern coast of Honduras from west of Punta Patuca westward to Punta Castilla
A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case within the next 12 hours or so. Preparations to protect life and property should be completed.
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.
A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
Interests elsewhere in Nicaragua and Honduras should monitor the progress of this system.
For storm information specific to your area, please monitor
products issued by your national meteorological service.
Hazards Affecting Land
WIND: Catastrophic wind damage is expected where Eta’s eyewall moves onshore within the Hurricane Warning area beginning tonight, with tropical storm conditions beginning within the next few hours. Tropical storm conditions are expected in the Tropical Storm Warning area tonight, and hurricane conditions are possible in the Hurricane Watch area by early Tuesday. Tropical Storm conditions are possible in the Tropical Storm Watch area by early Tuesday.
RAINFALL: Eta is expected to produce the following rainfall amounts
through Friday evening:
- Much of Nicaragua and Honduras: 15 to 25 inches (380 to 635 mm), isolated amounts of 35 inches (890 mm).
- Eastern Guatemala and Belize: 10 to 20 inches (255 to 510 mm), isolated amounts of 25 inches (635 mm).
- Portions of Panama and Costa Rica: 10 to 15 inches (255 to 380 mm), isolated amounts of 25 inches (635 mm).
- Jamaica and southeast Mexico: 5 to 10 inches (125 to 255 mm), isolated amounts of 15 inches (380 mm) over southern areas.
- El Salvador, Southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands: 3 to 5 inches (75 to 125 mm), isolated amounts of 10 inches (255 mm)
This rainfall would 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 would be possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands.
STORM SURGE: A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 14 to 21 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the coast of Nicaragua within the hurricane warning area, and 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along the coast of Honduras within the tropical storm warning area. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
SURF: Swells generated by Eta are expected to affect portions of the coast of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather office.
This system is of no direct threat to the Windward Islands, including Trinidad and Tobago.
Hurricane Eta Forecast Discussion
An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft has found that Eta has explosively deepened into a strong category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 kt and a minimum central pressure of 927 mb. Eta has maintained a small 10-nmi-wide eye that is evident in satellite imagery and on the San Andreas, Colombia, weather radar. The radar data also suggest that concentric eyewalls may be forming, which would be an indication of the onset of an eyewall replacement cycle (ERC) and a capping of Eta’s intensity and also an end to the rapid intensification cycle of the past 36 hours. The initial intensity of 130 kt kt is based on 700-mb flight-level winds of 137 kt and SFMR surface winds of 130 kt. Some additional strengthening is expected, and Eta could become a category 5 hurricane before landfall occurs. After landfall, Eta should quickly weaken while it moves over the mountainous terrain of Central America.
Eta has slowed and is now moving southwestward or 245/06 kt. There is no significant change to previous track forecast reasoning. A mid-level ridge over the south-central United States should steer Eta west-southwestward toward the coast of Nicaragua with the hurricane making landfall early Tuesday. After landfall, Eta should turn westward and then west-northwestward, and move across Central America through Thursday. Eta’s low-level circulation may not survive its passage over the mountainous terrain of Central America, but most of the global models continue to depict a cyclone or its remnants moving over the northwestern Caribbean Sea by late-week and into the weekend. Therefore, the new NHC track forecast continues to show the system emerging over the northwestern Caribbean late in the period, although this portion of the track forecast remains uncertain.
Since Eta is likely to be a very slow-moving system after it makes landfall in Central America, torrential rains and flooding will be a major threat.
- Catastrophic wind damage is expected where Eta’s eyewall moves onshore along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua tonight or early Tuesday. Tropical storm force winds are beginning to reach the coast within the Hurricane Warning area in Nicaragua, and residents there should have completed their preparations. A Tropical Storm Warning is also in effect for the northeastern coast of Honduras.
- A catastrophic and life-threatening storm surge, along with destructive waves, are expected along portions of the northeastern coast of Nicaragua near and to the north of where the center makes landfall. Water levels could reach as high as 14 to 21 feet above normal tide levels in some parts of the hurricane warning area. Preparations to protect life and property should now be complete.
- Through Friday evening, heavy rainfall from Eta will likely lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding across portions of Central America, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain. Flash and river flooding is also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands.
Forecast discussion by NHC Forecaster Stewart.