Eta made landfall Tuesday afternoon as a strong 140 mph Category 4 hurricane in Nicaragua, making it the strongest hurricane to strike that country since 2007.
By Wednesday morning, it had weakened to a tropical storm, but life-threatening flash flooding continued for portions of Central America.
As of the 10 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Eta had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, was located 135 miles north-northeast of Managua, Nicaragua, and was moving west at 7 mph. The slow motion of Eta since landfall has meant it moved only about 100 miles inland in 24 hours while producing intense amounts of rainfall and relentless winds for hours.
Even though Eta is forecast to weaken to a depression or remnant low, it is still expected to produce catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding along with landslides in areas of higher terrain across Central America. Flash and river flooding are also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands through the end of the week.
By Friday, focus turns to Eta’s potential “second act” and its forecast in respect to the United States.
On Friday, Eta is forecast to emerge out over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and restrengthen to a tropical storm by sometime Saturday.
On Sunday, it is forecast to affect Cuba and by late Sunday or early Monday, it will be approaching the Florida Keys and southern Florida. There is significant uncertainty in the intensity and exact timing for Florida, but people there, as well as those all along the Gulf Coast, should monitor and prepare for, at the very least, wet and windy conditions beginning late Sunday into early next week.
So far this season, there have been a record-breaking 11 landfalls on the U.S. mainland. Remarkably, none of those have been in the state of Florida.