MIAMI (NewsNation Now) — Eta strengthened into a hurricane early Monday, bringing threats of storm surge, strong winds, flash flooding and potential landslides to parts of Central America, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center announced at 4 a.m. EDT that the storm had reached maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, and Eta is expected to gain strength through early Tuesday.
Eta could become a major hurricane by the time it makes landfall in Nicaragua Tuesday, the center warned.
So far, a hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras-Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi. A hurricane watch is in effect for the northeastern coast of Honduras, from Punta Patuca to the Honduras-Nicaragua border.
As of early Monday, Eta was located about 155 miles east of the Nicaragua-Honduras border. It was moving west at 12 mph, the center said.
Forecasters said central and northern Nicaragua into much of Honduras could get 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 35 inches in isolated areas. Heavy rains also were likely in eastern Guatemala, southern Belize and Jamaica.
Storm surge up to 15 feet above normal tides was possible for the coast of Nicaragua. The hurricane center also warned of life-threatening flash flooding and landslides in areas with higher terrain.
Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. However, this is the first time the Greek letter Eta is being used as a storm name because after the 2005 season ended, meteorologists went back and determined there had been a storm that should have gotten a name but didn’t.
Hurricane season still has a month to go, ending Nov. 30. And in 2005, Zeta formed toward the end of December.
The Associated Press contributed to this report