(UPI) – Hurricane Eta weakened to a tropical storm early Wednesday after making landfall in Nicaragua as a powerful Category 4 hurricane a day prior.
Eta, the 28th named storm and 12th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, moved over Nicaragua Tuesday afternoon, threatening to cause “catastrophic” wind damage and a life-threatening storm surge.
But as it moved across Nicaragua it weakened and had maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h (70 mph) by early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center (HNC) 4 am EST update.
The forecasters said Eta was located 145 kilometers west of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and was traveling west at 12 km/h.
“The center of Eta is expected to move over northern Nicaragua through this morning, and then move across the central portions of Honduras through Thursday morning,” the NHC said. “The system is forecast to emerge over the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Friday.”
Water levels could reach 14 to 21 feet above normal tide levels in some areas, and catastrophic flash flooding and landslides are expected through Friday evening in parts of Central America.
Jamaica, southeast Mexico, El Salvador, southern Haiti, and the Cayman Islands also could see flash flooding and river flooding.
The NHC advised people in Cuba, southern Florida and the Florida keys to monitor the progress of the storm, which could regain tropical storm strength before approaching Florida this weekend.
By Tuesday morning, the storm had already caused widespread power outages and triggered flooding in some of the country’s poorest regions, according to Nicaraguan officials.
Read more: 3 Dead As Weakening Eta Batters Nicaragua
A hurricane warning is in effect from the coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras-Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi.
When Eta reached Category 4 strength, it achieved a rare feat for this late in the season. Only three Category 4 hurricanes – Lenny in 1999, Michelle in 2001 and Paloma in 2008 – and one Category 5 hurricane have developed in the Atlantic during the month of November.
Eta is a powerful reminder of the impact that Hurricane Mitch in 1998, striking around the same point of the season. More than 11,000 people died due to catastrophic flooding.
When Eta became a tropical storm on Saturday, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season tied 2005 for generating the most tropical storms in a single season.
The NHC had never used the name Eta before this storm, making it the farthest the center ever dipped into the Greek alphabet to name a tropical storm. The only other year to use Greek letters to name Atlantic storms after the season’s designated list was exhausted was 2005.