Hurricane Eta is on track to be a catastrophic event in Central America — especially Nicaragua and Honduras. The slow-moving storm is going to pummel the eastern part of Nicaragua with vicious Category 4 winds and dump 2 to 3 feet of rain on the mountainous sections of both countries.
Even after Eta’s circulation gets shredded by the mountains, heavy rain will continue to fall. There is risk that the death toll will be staggeringly high.
About Friday, what’s left of Eta is forecast to move north into the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba. The atmospheric conditions there are expected to be supportive of a tropical storm redeveloping.
Whether it will be called Eta or Theta, the next letter in the Greek alphabet, is an open question. There are technical rules about names being carried over once the circulation gets disrupted. The National Hurricane Center will make the call based on what they are able to track of Eta’s original center.
While the new system is developing over the Caribbean, a sharp dip in the jet stream is forecast to move into the Gulf. The consensus of the afternoon computer forecast models is that that dip will scoop up the disturbance, whatever shape it’s in, and lift it toward South Florida.
The National Hurricane Center has responded to these more aggressive projections by the models by forecasting the system to move north fairly quickly – putting it in the vicinity of South Florida on Sunday. But uncertainty abounds.
The dip in the jet stream that is forecast to pull the system north, is not expected to create an environment conducive for significant strengthening. In fact, the forecast weather pattern over South Florida late in the weekend appears to be more supportive of a wintertime-type low-pressure system forming – like a nor’easter.
As a result of these factors and more, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting a modest tropical storm moving north from Cuba – with a lot of acknowledged uncertainty in their forecast.
Recall the maxim: Forecasts for slow-moving or developing storms are almost always poor. This situation has that in spades.
For now, be ready for significant rainfall over the weekend, and a potentially disruptive storm on Sunday or Monday. There are many possibilities for the track and intensity when the storm is near Florida, so all we can do right now is to stay informed and be ready as the forecast becomes clearer.