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Hurricane Eta threatens to escalate to Category 4 en route to Central America

Forecast of the trajectory of Hurricane Eta on its route through the Caribbean towards Honduras and Nicaragua in an infographic from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) of the United States.Courtesy / EFE

Tropical storm Eta has intensified in the early hours of Monday to a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale and threatens to gain strength to become a category 4 phenomenon before making landfall in Nicaragua on Tuesday. If the current sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour increase to 250 kilometers per hour they will cause fatal damage on the Atlantic coast, according to the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC for its acronym in English). In addition, heavy rains threaten to cause floods, landslides and river overflows in Nicaragua and Honduras, but also in parts of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Jamaica and southeastern Mexico. In Haiti and the Cayman Islands, the greatest risk is concentrated due to the swells, currents and strong waves derived from the hurricane.

This was a tropical storm 24 hours ago but it has gained strength in a very short time. The authorities estimate that its trajectory will be curved and it will return to the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical depression. It is estimated that it will land on the Nicaraguan coast this Tuesday as category 4 and will remain over the country until Wednesday but reverting to category 2 as it advances over land. The National Meteorological Service of Mexico foresees that the phenomenon will lead to a tropical depression as it passes through Honduras and re-emerge into the ocean between December 6 and 7 before reaching Belize.

Category 4 tropical cyclones move winds of 209 to 251 kilometers per hour, destroy mobile homes and other buildings without fixed structures and can cause severe damage to the most resistant structures as well as devastate canopies, as happened with Hurricane Harvey. NHC has warned that, in the case of Eta, the damage can be catastrophic from the wind. The waves will increase by five meters and threaten to wash over the coast in Nicaragua, where there are five provinces on red alert. The entire coast of Central America and the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán are at risk of suffering the effects of the dangerous waves of the hurricane.

The intense rains will be concentrated in Nicaragua and Honduras, where 890 millimeters of water can be reached in isolated areas. However, the authorities warn of flooding and the overflowing of rivers, which are highly dangerous in the highest areas of Central America. Jamaica, southeastern Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands are some of the regions at risk.

After the passage of Hurricane Zeta a week ago, Eta is number 12 in an unusually intense hurricane season. A month ago, the Delta phenomenon, which made landfall as a category 2, left broken glass, downed trees and power outages caused by transformers that fell to the ground. Just a few days earlier, Tropical Storm Gamma claimed the lives of six people and some 600,000 affected by floods throughout southern Mexico.