Slow-moving Eta, which rapidly intensified overnight, is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, strong winds and nearly 3 feet of rain. It could lead to catastrophic flooding and landslides across Central America.
"Eta has become an impressive November hurricane as it continues to undergo rapid strengthening," the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Sustained winds from Eta strengthened to 110 mph Monday morning. The storm is moving west towards Central America at 9 mph, according to an advisory from the NHC issued Monday morning.
A hurricane warning is in place for the entire coast of Nicaragua. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the northeastern coast of Honduras.
Eta's center is expected to approach the northeastern coast of Nicaragua Monday afternoon, and make landfall early Tuesday, before moving inland over northern Nicaragua through early Wednesday, according to the NHC.
Hurricane Eta is now the ninth storm of the year, and the fifth storm in a row, to undergo rapid intensification, or the strengthening of wind speeds of 35 mph or more in 24 hours.
Hurricane Eta will bring Catastrophic conditions to Central America
"Catastrophic wind damage is expected where Eta's eyewall moves onshore within the hurricane warning area beginning tonight," the NHC said.
The storm will also deliver heavy rainfall with estimates of 15 to 25 inches, and isolated amounts up to 35 inches in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Life-threatening storm surge along the Nicaraguan coastline is expected to be up to 18 feet above normal tide. Extremely strong winds will impact areas from the coast towards the mountains.
The wind and storm surge threat will diminish throughout Tuesday, but the rain will last well into the week.
Heavy rain will spread throughout Central America, where areas from southeast Mexico down through Panama could see rain accumulations up to 25 inches.
"This rainfall would lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America," the NHC said. "Flash flooding and river flooding would be possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands."
The current forecast has the storm meandering the mountains of Nicaragua and Honduras before heading north towards Belize as a depression by Friday. The track and intensity of the storm remains uncertain after Friday and will be closely monitored.
Eta is the 28th named storm of the active 2020 hurricane season and ties the record for the number of named storms in a single season set back in 2005.
The storm has the potential to be one of the worst flooding events Nicaragua has seen since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed more than 10,000 people.