Tropical Storm Eta strengthened quickly as it barreled west through the Caribbean on Sunday en route to Nicaragua and Honduras, which it is expected to pound with potentially deadly wind and rain, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Eta is forecast to become a hurricane overnight and plow into the northeast coast of Nicaragua and adjacent portions of eastern Honduras early on Tuesday, the Miami-based NHC said.
Latest projections forecast Eta will by then be a Category 2 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, blowing winds of up to 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour). That is stronger than the NHC had predicted.
“Once inland, Eta should quickly weaken over the mountainous terrain of Nicaragua and Honduras,” the NHC said.
By mid-afternoon, Eta was 305 miles (495 km) east-northeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, moving west at 15 mph (24 kph) and blowing sustained winds of 65 mph (105 kph), the NHC said.
Through Friday afternoon, Eta’s rains threaten to cause serious flooding and landslides in Central America. Jamaica, southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands may also be hit.
By then, Eta is likely to have dumped 15-25 inches (381-640 mm) of rain on central and northern Nicaragua and much of Honduras, with up to 35 inches (889 mm) in some areas, the NHC said.
Nicaragua’s government has issued a hurricane warning from the Honduras-Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi. Honduras has put out a tropical storm warning from Punta Patuca to the border with Nicaragua.