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Watches and warnings
•A small-craft warning is in effect for the Cayman Islands
•A flood warning is in effect for the Cayman Islands
MANAGUA/TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – National Hurricane Center forecasters expect Tropical Storm Eta to weaken to a tropical depression over the next few hours as the system moves into Honduras.
Eta pummeled Nicaragua and Honduras with torrential rain on Wednesday after triggering major floods and landslides in Central America, reportedly killing at least three people and stranding dozens of fishermen in the Atlantic.
Eta, one of the most powerful storms to strike Central America in years, hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday, before weakening to a tropical storm as it forged inland in the impoverished country.
In its 4pm update, the NHC said the storm was located about 100 miles east of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and is moving westward at seven miles per hour. Eta’s maximum sustained winds are clocked at 40 mph with higher gusts
All coastal warnings for Central America have been discontinued.
“Although the coastal warnings have been discontinued, the governments of Nicaragua and Honduras continue to issue warnings on heavy rain and flooding in those countries, and interests in Nicaragua and Honduras should continue to monitor the progress of this system,” the NHC said. “Interests in Belize, western Cuba, and the Cayman Islands should also monitor the progress of this system.”
Small marine craft and flooding warnings are in effect in the Cayman Islands.
Eta is forecast to swing to the north before it or its remnants emerge over the Gulf of Honduras or the northwestern Caribbean Sea Thursday night and Friday.
“Re-intensification is possible once the center of Eta reached the Caribbean Sea,” the NHC said in its most recent update.
The NHC tracking model has Eta passing the Cayman Islands as a tropical storm Saturday afternoon. Grand Cayman sits on the edge of the cone with the Sister Islands slightly to the east of the edge as Eta makes its way towards Cuba and Florida.
Cayman can expect 10 to 25 inches of rain through Monday morning.
In its wake across central America, Eta has left swathe of damaged homes, roads and key infrastructure, while thousands of people have been evacuated.
About 60 fishermen were trapped out at sea in the eastern Mosquitia region of Honduras, possibly taking shelter on Caribbean keys, said Robin Morales, a representative of the local population.
A boat was sent on Wednesday to collect the body of one fishermen, who died from a heart attack, but the Navy will be needed to rescue others, Morales said.
So far, the Navy has not been able to attempt a rescue due to the dangerous conditions, said Douglas Espinal, head of the fire department in the port of Puerto Lempira.
The deluge was so extreme in the northern Honduran city of El Progreso that a prison was flooded to waist level, a wall collapsed and the facility’s 604 inmates were transferred to local gyms, police commissioner Juan Molina told local television.
The storm weakened in intensity around noon on Wednesday but it continued to produce “life-threatening flash flooding” in parts of Central America, the NHC said.
Nicaraguan media reported that two wildcat miners were killed by a mudslide. In Honduras, a 13-year-old girl died in a landslide on her home, the fire department said
By noon local time, Eta was blowing winds of 45 miles per hour, the NHC said. It was grinding through Nicaragua about 125 miles north-northeast of Nicaragua’s capital Managua, moving westward at 7 mph.
Eta could dump 10-20 inches of rain on central and northern Nicaragua and much of Honduras, with up to 40 inches in some areas, according to the latest NHC forecasts.
The storm knocked down trees and power lines and caused serious flooding in northern Nicaragua, national disaster management agency SINAPRED said Tuesday. Still, Vice President Rosario Murillo said the initial damage was less than feared.
In Honduras, rivers burst their banks, towns and cities on the Atlantic coast flooded, and landslides hit roads.
In Guatemala, the rains felled trees and unleashed landslides onto roads, authorities said.
Through Sunday, flash and river flooding is also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands, NHC said.
The storm is forecast to advance further into Honduras on Wednesday before barreling over Belize and back out into the Caribbean over Cuba and Florida, the NHC said.
Eta is the 28th named tropical storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying a record set in 2005, the NHC said.
(Cayman Compass editor-in-chief Kevin Morales contributed to this report)