HURRICANE ETA HEADS FOR NICARAGUA AS LATE-WEEK DEVELOPMENTS REMAIN VERY UNCERTAIN
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
Eta became a hurricane early this morning, and is continuing to strengthen as it slowly approaches the Nicaraguan coast. The center is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning. The storm will bring violent winds to the coast sections – winds at or near Category 4 strength are forecast. In addition, the National Hurricane Center prediction is for storm surge of 10-15 feet above normal tide levels, and potentially catastrophic rainfall over the mountainous sections of Nicaragua and Honduras.
The coast of Nicaragua is under a Hurricane Warning, while coastal Honduras is under a Hurricane Watch meaning hurricane-force winds are possible there as well. Both country’s mountainous areas will get the brunt of Eta’s moisture.
Rainfall amounts in the 20 to 30-inch range are forecast, meaning landslides are likely as saturated mountainsides give way. Situations like this have killed thousands of people in the past – namely in 1998 from Hurricane Mitch and in 1974 from Hurricane Fifi.
The winds will quickly wind down over the high terrain of Central America as what’s left of Eta drifts west over the mountains for the next few days. Then the forecast gets murky toward the end of the week.
Most of the computer forecast models continue to predict that a low-pressure system of some kind will form or emerge over the extreme western Caribbean Sea late in the week or over the weekend. Whether that new circulation is Eta’s, or something new that develops in the supportive atmospheric environment over that part of the Caribbean, remains to be seen.
The Western Caribbean is a favored area for storms to develop in November, so this isn’t a total surprise. Notice the cluster of historic tropical storms and hurricanes that have formed there during November from Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
Assuming the system forms, whether it drifts around in the Caribbean well into next week, or it gets far enough north to affect Florida and the Bahamas – assuming it forms at all – are open questions.
Dips in the jet stream moving across the southern U.S. will come along and try to grab whatever is there. If the system forms far to the south near the Honduras coast, they might not be able to pick it up. If it forms farther north, it’s more likely to get grabbed.
We probably won’t have a good handle on how this will develop until Thursday or Friday.
In any case, for now the concern is for Nicaragua and Honduras. All indications are that it’s going to be a disastrous event for the people who live at the coast, in the path of mudslides, and in areas where flash flooding can be deadly.