Hurricane Eta Barrels Into Nicaragua With ‘Catastrophic’ Force

Hurricane Eta barreled ashore in Nicaragua with violent wind and devastating rain, threatening to trigger deadly floods and landslides.

The storm, one of the Atlantic’s most powerful of the year, made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas with winds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. Some areas could get as much as 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain, said Paul Walker, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc.

“Catastrophic wind damage is expected during the next few hours,” the Hurricane Center said shortly before 3 p.m. local time.

The storm’s lumbering pace of 5 mph threatens to exacerbate flooding. About 20,000 people have evacuated the from the Nicaraguan coast, mostly from Bilwi and Prinzapolka. River levels are rising, and photos from government news reports showed uprooted trees and broken streetlights. Honduras has issued a red alert along the Caribbean coast and El Salvador has issued a national one.

Eta is the Atlantic’s 28th storm of 2020, tying a 2005 record for the most named systems in a single year. So many have formed that the hurricane center has used up all its official names and has resorted to designating storms with Greek letters.

It’s rare for Atlantic hurricanes to reach Category 4 strength or higher during November, Phil Klotzbach, tropical cyclone researcher with Colorado State University, said in a tweet.

Eta is forecast to emerge over the northwestern Caribbean Thursday night or Friday. After that, forecast models take it anywhere from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to Cuba, with some predictions taking it into the Gulf of Mexico next week.

While 2020’s Atlantic storms haven’t been as strong as those that emerged in some other prolific seasons, the year has produced a number of records, including 11 strikes on the U.S. and six landfalls in Louisiana, according to Klotzbach.

It’s estimated that this year’s storms have killed about 160 people across the Atlantic basin, and the numerous storms crossing the U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s oil and natural gas fields have led to several shutdowns and evacuations.

While 2020 matches 2005 with 28 storms, this is the first time Eta has been used to name a storm. In 2005, the 28th storm wasn’t added until a post-season analysis of data, so this is also the earliest so many systems have been recorded across the Atlantic.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty in the long range with this thing,” Walker said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.