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Hurricane Eta, 28th Named Storm of 2020, Menaces Nicaragua

Climate
Hurricane  Eta, 28th Named  Storm of 2020, Menaces Nicaragua
CIRA / NOAA

Hurricane Eta, the record-tying 28th named storm in an extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, is now menacing Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm.


The storm is expected to make landfall Tuesday along Nicaragua's northeast coast, according to a 4 a.m. EST update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC has dubbed it an "extremely dangerous" storm that could produce "catastrophic wind damage" as it makes landfall and dump as much as 35 inches of rain in some parts of Nicaragua and Honduras.

"This rainfall will lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America," the NHC warned.

Eta is expected to move across northern Nicaragua by Wednesday morning and central Honduras by Thursday morning. It could also bring rain and flooding to parts of Central America, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti and the Cayman Islands as it moves over the area through Friday.

The storm recalls 1998's Hurricane Mitch in strength and path, The New York Times pointed out. That storm killed more than 11,000 people, mostly in Nicaragua and Honduras.

In advance of Eta, the Nicaraguan government has already evacuated more than 3,000 families from low-lying coastal areas. It has also sent 88 tons of food to the port town of Puerto Cabezas and prepared and sent four trailers with supplies including hygiene kits.

"In this way, the government of Nicaragua will be able to provide quick and effective humanitarian aid to families," Dr. Guillermo González, the director of Nicaragua's National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention, told The New York Times.

Hurricane Eta is the 28th named storm of an extremely active season. The only other season to reach 28 storms strong enough for names was 2005. However, the Greek letter Eta was not used that year because the 28th storm was discovered after the fact.

Colorado State University scientist Philip Klotzbach said it was likely that 2020 would ultimately break 2005's record.

"The odds certainly favor another storm or two forming in November," he told The New York Times. "The large-scale environment, especially in the Caribbean, is forecast to remain more conducive than normal for this late in the hurricane season."

Even in an active season, Eta stands out. It intensified rapidly between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday, CNN reported, moving from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane and nearly doubling its wind speed. It has the lowest pressure of any storm so far this year, which is a marker of strength, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin explained.

It is also unusually strong for a November hurricane, Klotzbach noted on Twitter. Only two other storms have reached 150 miles per hour in that month: the Cuba hurricane of 1932 and Hurricane Lenny in 1999.

The climate crisis makes it more likely that storms like Eta will intensify rapidly as warmer ocean temperatures fuel their strength. The same process super-charged Hurricane Delta earlier this year.

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