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Tropical Storm Eta is forecast to become a hurricane overnight and is bringing with it life-threatening storm surges, damaging winds and flash-flooding to portions of Central America, the US National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory Sunday.
A small-craft warning commencing Monday was issued by the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, as 5-to-7-foot waves are expected.
“As Tropical Storm Eta moves over the southwest Caribbean, south of the Cayman Islands, an increase in wave heights along with possible swells are expected,” the National Weather Service said in its warning.
Wave heights are expected to increase to 6 to 8 feet on Tuesday.
As of 4pm the storm was reported 344 miles south-southeast of Cayman.
Through Friday afternoon, the NHC said, southern Haiti and the Cayman Islands are forecast to receive a total of 3 to 5 inches of rain and isolated amounts of 10 inches due to the storm. Jamaica can expect 5 to 10 inches of rain and isolated amounts of 15 inches over southern areas.
The NHC said the storm was 286 miles east of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaraguan/Honduran border. The storm is currently moving west.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi.
The NHC dispatched a Hurricane Hunter aircraft earlier and its data indicated that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 65 mph with higher gusts.
“Rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours, and Eta is expected to become a hurricane tonight, with additional strengthening likely until the hurricane makes landfall Monday night or early Tuesday. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles from the center,” the NHC advisory said.
Eta is moving toward the west near 15 mph, and this motion, with some decrease in forward speed, is expected tonight.
A slower motion toward the west-southwest is forecast on Monday and Tuesday.
On the forecast track, the NHC said, the centre of Eta is expected to approach the northeastern coast of Nicaragua on Monday, and make landfall within the hurricane warning area in Nicaragua Monday night or early Tuesday.
Rainfall associated with the system would lead to significant, life-threatening flash-flooding and river-flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain, the NHC said.
“A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the coast of Nicaragua within the hurricane warning area, and 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along the coast of Honduras within the tropical storm warning area,” the NHC advised.
Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Swells generated by Eta are expected to affect portions of the coast of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause
life-threatening surf and rip-current conditions.