Hurricane Eta Nears Category 5 Strength as Storm Approaches Central America

Hurricane Eta has strengthened to a Category 4 major storm — and may be upgraded to a Category 5 — as it slowly approaches Central America, bringing with it life-threatening landslides, flash flooding, and strong winds.

At 7:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center (HNC) said that Eta is expected to make landfall on Tuesday in Northeastern Nicaragua, before moving farther inland through Wednesday morning and then moving across central portions of Honduras by Thursday morning.

As of the NHC's most recent update, Eta is located in the Caribbean about 30 miles from Puerto Cabezas on Nicaragua's coast. The storm is moving west-southwest at 4 mph and has maximum winds sustained of 145 mph.

A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal Nicaragua, while a tropical storm warning is in effect for the northeastern coast of Honduras.

NHC forecasters said most of Nicaragua and Honduras could get 15 to 25 inches of rain through Friday evening, with 35 inches of rain possible in more isolated areas. Eastern Guatemala, southern Belize, and Jamaica will also likely see heavy rainfall.

"This rainfall will lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America," said the NHC. "Flash flooding and river flooding will be possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands."

The NHC predicted that the storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 14 to 21 feet above normal in parts of Nicaragua. Large waves are also likely to occur near the coast.

Eta is now the 28th Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for the number of named storms in a single season. Hurricane season is expected to end on Nov. 30.

The last Category 4+ storm to strike Nicaragua was Felix in 2007, which made landfall as a Category 5 and caused 130 deaths, according to the NHC.

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