Hurricane Eta erupted quickly into a potentially catastrophic major hurricane Monday as it headed for Central America, where forecasters warned of massive flooding and landslides across a vulnerable region, the AP reports. Eta was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150mph late Monday, the US National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 45 miles east of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and moving west-southwest at 7mph. Traffic filled the streets Monday morning as residents scrambled to stock up before Eta’s arrival. Long lines snaked away from cash machines. The center said Eta was likely to strengthen further and could reach Category 5 before running ashore by early Tuesday in Nicaragua, where it could bring rains measured in feet rather than inches.
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. A storm surge up to 15 feet above normal tides was possible for the coast of Nicaragua. Nicaragua's navy carried families in open boats, mostly women and children with the possessions they could carry from outer islands to the mainland under a low grey sky. It prohibited launching any boats along the stretch of coast expected to receive Eta. By evening, much of Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, the primary city of the Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region that is home to some 66,000 people, was already without power. Approximately 3,000 families from surrounding areas had been moved into shelters. Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms, and there's still a month to go.
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