U.S. forecasters say Eta, now a tropical depression, has moved back over the Caribbean and is expected to strengthen into at tropical storm again after ravaging Central America over the past few days with heavy rains that caused flooding and landslides that killed at least 57 people.
In its most recent report, the National Hurricane Center says Eta was about 155 kilometers east-to-northeast of the coast of Belize and was continuing to move to the north to northeast at about 10 kph. Its maximum sustained winds were about 55 kph, or just under minimum tropical storm strength of 62 kph.
The hurricane center says Eta is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm again later Friday, and as it moves over the warm waters of the northwestern Caribbean, there is a chance it could reach hurricane strength again in the next 48 hours. They say watches and warnings may be necessary for southern Florida later Friday.
Eta came ashore Tuesday in Nicaragua as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, bringing high winds, heavy rain, flooding and landslides in higher elevations.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Eta has forced thousands of people to leave their homes and has caused “significant damage” to buildings and homes in Central America, including in Honduras, Guatemala and Panama.
In a statement Friday, Felipe del Cid, the IFRC chief for the region, said, “In Honduras, already about 400,000 people have been directly affected by the storm, but that number could even double in the coming hours.” He said their teams reported widespread damage including flooded communities, destroyed homes and displaced people.
Del Cid called Eta “probably one of the biggest threats [Honduras] has faced since the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.”
Eta was the 28th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying a record for the busiest season ever observed.