Strengthening Eta may bring 'catastrophic' impacts to Central America

Digital Writers
·3 min read
Strengthening Eta may bring 'catastrophic' impacts to Central America
Strengthening Eta may bring 'catastrophic' impacts to Central America

Eta is continuing to intensify at a rapid pace, currently a Category 4 hurricane, with the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) warning of life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides to parts of Central America.

As of Monday evening, the major hurricane currently boasts sustained winds near 240 km/h. The latest NHC update says additional strengthening is forecast until Eta reaches the coast of Nicaragua. Weakening will begin after the cyclone moves inland.

ETAInfo
ETAInfo

The agency is warning of catastrophic wind damage where Eta's eyewall moves onshore within the hurricane warning area beginning Monday night, with tropical storm conditions expected within the next few hours.

As well, NHC says heavy rainfall could bring catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America. Flash flooding and river flooding is also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands.

"On the forecast track, the centre of Eta is expected to make landfall along the coast of Nicaragua within the hurricane warning area early Tuesday. The centre of Eta is forecast to move farther inland over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday night, and then move across central portions of Honduras on Thursday," the NHC says.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Nicaragua, from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi, while a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch covers the northeastern coast of Honduras, from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border.

EtaTrack
EtaTrack

A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3.65 metres to 5.48 metres above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the coast of Nicaragua within the hurricane warning area.

Through Friday evening, Eta is expected to produce rainfall amounts of 380-635 mm, with isolated amounts of 890 mm, to most of Nicaragua and Honduras, 255-510 mm, with isolated totals of 635 mm, to eastern Guatemala and Belize, 255-380 mm, with isolated amounts of 635 mm, to portions of Panama and Costa Rica, 125-255 mm, with isolated amounts of 380 mm in southern areas, to Jamaica and southeast Mexico, and 75-125 mm, with isolated totals of 255 mm, to El Salvador, Southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands.

REMARKABLE STATS

What is more remarkable about this storm is the name itself. Eta, from the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, is the first storm in history to be given that moniker.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are given names from the Latin alphabet, but when the number of storms exceeds 21, they are given Greek names instead. That happened as early as September this year with subtropical storm Alpha, and has continued since then.

Hurricane Greek alphabet (as of Nov. 1)
Hurricane Greek alphabet (as of Nov. 1)

With Eta, the 2020 season now is tied with 2005. There were 28 storms in 2005, with an unnamed storm added post-season. With two months left to the year, there's a non-zero chance we may continue deeper into record territory.

In the 2005 season, the last named storm was Zeta, which actually lingered a few days into January before finally dissipating.

Another interesting figure is the number of named October storms in 2020. Based on 30-year climatology (1981-2010), the Atlantic basin typically sees two named storms in October. This year had five storms, all in the Greek Alphabet -- Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta and Eta. Three of those storms became hurricanes and Delta and Epsilon were considered major (Category 3 or higher).