Eta forecast to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, a rare occurrence in November

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Eta rapidly intensified early Monday to become the 12th hurricane this season and is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall on Tuesday.

As of 10 a.m. Eastern, Eta was a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, just 1 mph shy of Category 3 status, and was 115 miles east of the Nicaragua/Honduras border, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was moving west at 10 mph.

It is forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane later on Monday and eventually a Category 4 storm before it makes landfall in Nicaragua by early Tuesday morning.

It is extremely rare for a Category 4 storm to strike land at this time of year. There have been only three Category 4 hurricanes on record during November, the most recent being Hurricane Paloma in 2008.

Eta is forecast to slow down near the time of landfall, making rain the main risk for much of Honduras and Nicaragua. The storm is expected to dump as much as 25 inches of rain over much of the two countries, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds and storm surge of 12-18 feet are also possible through Tuesday.

The hurricane center warned that a potentially slow-moving storm after landfall could bring catastrophic wind damage. Those in the path of the storm also should prepare for life-threatening flash flooding, mudslides, landslides and extreme property damage.

Eta is expected to meander around Central America through the end of the week, but what happens after is not as clear.

Some forecast models show a tropical cyclone over the northwestern Caribbean later this week and into the weekend but it is not clear if the system will include remnants of Eta or be an entirely new system, in which case it would be named Theta.

When it was upgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend, Eta became the 28th named storm this Atlantic hurricane season, which has now tied 2005 for the most named storms in a single season. This season reached 28 storms 59 days earlier than the 2005 season did.

Both 2005 and 2020 have required meteorologists to name storms using the Greek alphabet, after exhausting the traditional list of names. This is the first time Eta has been used. The next three names on the list are Theta, Iota and Kappa.

The Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 30, but tropical cyclones can still form through December, as was the case in 2005.

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