Hurricane Eta

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Hurricane Eta
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Eta 2020-11-03 0355Z.jpg
Hurricane Eta just before reaching peak intensity east of Nicaragua early on November 3
FormedOctober 31, 2020
DissipatedNovember 14, 2020
(Extratropical after November 13)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 150 mph (240 km/h)
Lowest pressure923 mbar (hPa); 27.26 inHg
Fatalities175 total; 120 missing
Damage≥ $8.3 billion (2020 USD)
Areas affected
Part of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Eta was a Category 4 hurricane that caused a lot of damage for parts of Central America in early November 2020. Eta originated from a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean Sea on October 31. The system organized very quickly as it moved west, and the cyclone peaked as a Category 4 hurricane on November 3. Some weakening took place as the system made landfall near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, late that same day. Eta quickly weakened to a tropical depression as it slowly moved across Central America before moving north into the Caribbean, also quickly moved toward Cuba on November 7. Over the next five days, the system moved very oddly, moving through the Florida Keys, before moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico. Reaching hurricane strength for a short time, it weakened once more and quickly moved across the Southeastern United States on November 12. It dissipated the next day.

Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings happened along the coast of Honduras and Northeastern Nicaragua as Eta approached. More than 10,000 people went to shelters in Puerto Cabezas and nearby villages. Eta knocked down power lines and trees while damaging roofs and causing flooding in Puerto Cabezas. At least 178 deaths across Central America have been related to the storm. Once the system began to reorganize in the Caribbean, tropical storm watches were in effect on November 5, in the Cayman Islands. In Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Florida, more areas were under watches. Eta brought heavy rainfall and gusty winds to the Cayman Islands and Cuba. Southern Florida had evacuations because of Eta and other floods. Eta's second landfall brought storm surge and gusty winds to the west coast of Central Florida and much needed rainfall to northern Florida. A cold front further to the north worsened this, bringing heavy rainfall and flash flooding to the Carolinas and Virginia, killing another five people in these states. 11 deaths were related to the storm in the U.S. Nearly $8 billion in damages have been reported across all affected areas by Eta as of December 2020.[1]

Relief efforts for those affected by the storm were set up in several countries. About 2.5 million were affected by the storm, including 1.7 million in Honduras. Many Emergency Response Units were to help support affected people. About 100 tons of food and water were given to Nicaragua and Honduras from Panama. People left homeless were moved to many shelters after the storm had passed. Donations worth millions of USD had been given to affected countries to help recoveries. However, just two weeks later, all efforts were reversed by Hurricane Iota.

Storm history[change | change source]

On October 28, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) started watching the Southwestern Caribbean. There was an area that might have become a tropical cyclone.[2] At 12:00 UTC on October 29, the area of interest turned to two tropical waves coming together moving into the Eastern Caribbean, still supposed to enter the region.[3] The disturbance steadily moved westward into a better environment for development.[4] This allowed it to become better organized on October 31, but there was some question as to if it had formed a good circulation.[5][6] But on 21:00 UTC that day, satellite and microwave imagery said that a circulation had formed, and the NHC began issuing advisories on Tropical Depression Twenty-Nine.[6][7] At 03:00 UTC on November 1, the system intensified into Tropical Storm Eta,[8] becoming the earliest 28th non-extratropical storm on record in an Atlantic hurricane season, beating Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005.[9]

Tropical Storm Eta at the beginning of its rapid intensification phase east of Nicaragua on November 1

Continuing west because of a ridge, Eta slowly organized throughout the day as cold convection began to form on top of its center.[10] After holding onto tropical storm strength for 15 hours, Eta began to intensify very quickly, becoming a Category 4 hurricane eightteen hours later, with lots of lightning being observed in its eyewall.[11][12] Eta begun to slow down and turn west-southwestward because of a ridge over the United States.[12] At 03:00 UTC on November 3, a airplane found the system still intensifying with winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) and a pressure of 927 mbar as it slowed.[13] According to the NHC, Eta maintained its peak winds as it reached its lowest pressure of 923 mbar at 06:00 UTC, marking its peak intensity as a strong Category 4 hurricane.[14] The Washington Post said that several experts thought Eta peaked as a Category 5 hurricane based on satellite imagery as well as a lack of aircraft due to several issues.[15] Still in a in a good location, Eta began to weaken six hours after its peak because of an eyewall replacement cycle, which it completed as it made landfall at 21:00 UTC south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, with winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) and a pressure of 940 mbar.[16] Land caused Eta to weaken very quickly as it moved slowly west after landfall with its eye disappearing and its convection weakening.[17] Only 27 hours after Eta made landfall, Eta had weakened to a tropical depression[18]5.[19]

Sea surface temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the Caribbean Sea through November 2 allowed Eta to explosively intensify

Even though the storm was messy, Eta still held on to tropical cyclone status, and began turning northeastward, eventually moving back over the Caribbean Sea on November 6 and speeding up due to the influence of a developing trough over the Gulf of Mexico.[20] On November 7, following a couple of center reformations, the system became better organized and became a tropical storm again, at 15:00 UTC on November 7.[21][22][23] Even with strong wind shear, the storm continued to strengthen through the day and reached a second peak of winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) and a pressure of 991 mbar at 00:00 UTC on November 8.[24] It then held its strength and slowed slightly before making landfall on the south central coast of Cuba at 09:00 UTC.[25] Eta weakened after making landfall in Cuba's Sancti Spíritus Province, but this was short as it quickly moved back over water in the Atlantic Ocean and began to strengthen again as it turned northwestward around the northeastern side of a low that had formed over the northwestern Caribbean Sea near the Isle of Youth.[26]

Eta briefly gained a eye feature before bad conditions removed most of its convection, although the storm was able to maintain its intensity as it grew in size and approached South Florida.[27] At 04:00 UTC on November 9, Eta made its third landfall on the Lower Matecumbe Key in the Florida Keys with the same intensity as its Cuban landfall.[28] It then passed just south of the southwestern coast of Florida as it turned westward.[29] Eta then turned southwestward under the influence of a strong ridge across the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and near the US East Coast. This also brought it into an area of really dry air, causing the storm to weaken and its area of gale-force winds to shrink.[30][31] However, even after its center became sheared to the west of its convection, Eta began to intensify again over the warm waters of the Gulf.[32] Eta than began to speed up north-northeast around the western edge of a subtropical ridge as its center reformed under the convection and an eye formed.[33] Eta then regained minimal hurricane status at 12:35 UTC on November 11, reaching a fourth peak intensity with winds of 75 mph (120 km/h) and a pressure of 983 mbar.[34]

Shortly after its peak, dry air rapidly removed the convection and caused the eye to be gone, causing Eta to weaken back into a tropical storm at 18:00 UTC.[35] The system turned further east and made landfall near Cedar Key, Florida at 09:00 UTC on November 12, with winds of 50 mph (85 km/h).[36] The storm weakened over land as it sped toward the north-northeastward, eventually emerging over the waters of the Atlantic near the Florida–Georgia border at 18:00 UTC.[37] Eta came out with winds of 40 mph (65 km/h) before restrengthening as it began its extratropical transition.[38][39] The storm completed its transition on November 13.[40] On the next day, Eta was absorbed into another frontal system to the north.

Readying[change | change source]

Early on November 1, important people in Honduras and Nicaragua put in Hurricane Watches and Warnings for the northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to Nicaragua and the northeastern coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras border to Puerto Cabezas.[41][42] Later that day, a hurricane warning was put in from the Honduras–Nicaragua border (place where Honduras and Nicaragua meet) to Sandy Bay Sirpi, while a tropical storm warning was put in for areas from Punta Patuca to the Honduras–Nicaragua border.[43] A tropical storm watch was also issued from west of Punta Patuca westward to Punta Castilla late that same day.[44]

Central America[change | change source]

Nicaragua[change | change source]

Hurricane Eta before landfall in Nicaragua on November 3. Its rainbands covered most of Central America.

Some people were worried that 14–21 feet (4.3–6.4 m) of storm surge along the coastline may happen, so Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega issued a yellow alert for most of the western departments on October 31, which were upgraded to a red alert by November 2.[45] People in coastal towns were told to leave as supplies, including 88 tons of food, sleeping bags, hygiene kits, and plastic, were brought to Puerto Cabezas according to SINAPRED.[46] The navy of Nicaragua helped more than 3,000 families from offshore islands to Puerto Cabezas as people in the city waited in long lines to access cash machines while getting supplies.[47] Just before the storm's arrival, the army of Nicaragua moved red-helmeted troops to Puerto Cabezas to help in search and rescue efforts that would happen because of Eta.[48] More than 10,000 people were at shelters in Puerto Cabezas and surrounding villages to wait out the storm.[49]

Honduras[change | change source]

Alerts were placed for all of Honduras[50] The Honduran Air Force told two planes to send 4,000 pounds of food to La Mosquitia, Gracias a Dios.[51] The National Police of Honduras was told to tell passengers of roadways blocked by a landslide or flooding.[52] More than 20,000 pounds of food were stored at the Offices of Risk Management and National Contingencies in San Pedro Sula, ahead of the storm.[53] Because of Hurricane Eta, in order to limit movements and protect human lives, the Honduran government canceled the Morazanico national holiday.[54]

El Salvador[change | change source]

The Civil Protection Directorate of El Salvador evacuated residents in Tecoluca after setting up 1,152 shelters across the country. The Autonomous Executive Port Commission thought of closing the El Salvador International Airport due to Eta.[55] The Executive Hydroelectric Commission of the Lempa River cleared pipes to make sure flooding doesn’t happen in communities along the river.[56]

Costa Rica[change | change source]

Costa Rica's National Meteorological Institute forecast lots of rainfall because of the outer bands of Eta, mostly along the Pacific coastline. With flooding starting at the night of November 2, the National Emergency Commission (NCE) put up multiple shelters for people leaving. The agency planned to set up three types of shelters due to the COVID-19 pandemic: infected people, people who might be infected, and non-infected persons. Landslides were expected in many areas due to wet soils.[57]

Panama[change | change source]

Although not in the path of Eta, the hurricane was expected to cause damage in Panama. Machines alerted to dangerous swells in Caribbean waters, along with wind gusts up to 37 mph (60 km/h).[58] The Ministry of Public Works (MOP) told residents to stay alert for possible flooding and landslides. MPO road crews were sent to make sure highways remained clear for travel.[59]

Belize[change | change source]

As flooding was a major threat because of heavy rainfall, a flood warning was issued for all of Belize because of Eta, as the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) urged residents to evacuate.[60]

Caribbean[change | change source]

Cayman Islands[change | change source]

Eta shortly after regaining tropical storm status, approaching the Cayman Islands and Cuba on November 7

Once the Cayman Islands came close to the cone of Tropical Depression Eta on November 5, tropical storm watches were issued for Grand Cayman and all of the other islands. This came after Eta became forecast to become a tropical storm again before brushing by the islands. Government schools were closed in the islands on November 6 due to the threat of Eta.[61] The next day, tropical storm warnings were put into effect for all of the islands.[62]

Cuba[change | change source]

On November 6, the Government of Cuba issued a tropical storm watch for many provinces of the western provinces of Cuba.[62][63] Later that day, these were upgraded to tropical storm warnings in some provinces.[64]

The Bahamas[change | change source]

Late on November 6, tropical storm watches were issued for the northwestern Bahamas.[65] The next day, these watches were upgraded to tropical storm warnings.[22]

United States[change | change source]

Florida[change | change source]

On November 6, tropical storm watches were issued for the Florida Keys and parts of the coast of the Florida Peninsula. The next day, these were upgraded to tropical storm warnings in the Florida Keys and the southern tip of the peninsula.[66] On November 7, Hurricane Watches and Warnings were issued parallelly for much of the Florida peninsula and both Tropical Storm Warnings and Watches were extended further north.[67] Residents of small homes and other structures in the Florida Keys were told to evacuate ahead of Tropical Storm Eta as a state of emergency was declared in some counties including Monroe and Miami-Dade.[68] Later, Hurricane Warnings were issued for the Florida Keys.[69] All the warnings for Florida were cancelled by November 9, only to have more issued the next day along the western side of the state as Eta changed directions.[31][70]

Effects[change | change source]

Deaths and damage by territory
Country/Territory Fatalities Missing Damage
(2020 USD)
Refs
The Bahamas 0 Unknown
Belize 0 Unknown
Cayman Islands 0 Unknown
Colombia 0 $25 million [1][71]
Cuba 0 Unknown
Costa Rica 2 $16.5 million [72][73]
El Salvador 1 Unknown [74]
Guatemala 53 96 $386 million [75][76][77]
Honduras 74 8 $5 billion [78][79][80]
Mexico 27 4 Unknown [81]
Nicaragua 2 $178 million [72][82]
Panama 19 12 $11 million [83][84]
United States 11 $1.65 billion [85][1][86][87][88]
Totals: 211[1] 120 $7.27 billion

Eta's intensity at the beginning of its lifetime followed by its odd path afterwards bought devastating impacts across Central America, the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and Florida with heavy rainfall, strong winds, and flash flooding causing most of the damage.

South America[change | change source]

Colombia[change | change source]

Despite passing north of the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, Eta still brought some damage to the island. Wind speeds of 75 km/h (47 mph) cut down the trees and damaged houses, and Eta also caused severe flooding on the island. Damage across the archipelago reached COL$3 billion (US$777,000).[71] Across the archipelago, two people were injured and 141 families were affected. A total of 6 homes were destroyed while another 64 homes and 24 businesses had damage.[89]

Central America[change | change source]

Nicaragua[change | change source]

As Eta neared landfall, its winds downed power lines and trees while causing flooding and damaging roofs in Puerto Cabezas.[90] At the Getsemani School, where 215 people were waiting out the storm, Eta's strong winds ripped 10 sheets of metal off the school's roof. No one was injured in the incident.[91] The Wawa River that connects Puerto Cabezas to the rest of Nicaragua had too much water in its banks.[92] Two people in the municipality of Bonanza died after they were buried in a landslide while working in a mine.[93] Eta caused C$6.128 billion (US$178.4 million) of damage in Nicaragua.[82]

Honduras[change | change source]

Hurricane Eta had life-changing effects on Honduras, largely due to flooding. Flooding caused 559 residents to get out oftheir homes and two others had to be rescued.[94] At least 457 homes were damaged by floodwaters, 41 communities were cut off by washed-out roads, and at least nine bridges were destroyed including one in La Ceiba.[95] In La Ceiba, floodwaters rushed through streets, and the flooding also washed away a structure at a local cemetery. A ferry leaving Roatán was rocked by large waves and winds with 300 passengers onboard while trying to reach the port of La Ceiba. Nobody was injured on the ferry. The Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras said that 14 roads and 339 homes were destroyed.[96] In Olanchito, 12 people, including two newborns, were trapped.[97] A wall collapsed at a prison in El Progreso letting in waist-deep floodwaters, causing the evacuation of more than 600 inmates.[98] At least 74 people have been killed across Honduras as a result of Eta, mainly due to landslides and drownings.[78] Among the dead were at least four people, including three children, who were killed in the mountains outside the north coast city of Tela due to different landslides.[95] In Santa Barbara, a 2-year-old girl was killed when she and her mother were swept away by floodwaters; the mother survived.[95] Four members of the same family died in the municipality of Gualala due to heavy rains.[99] A 13-year-old girl was killed when mud and rain caused her home to collapse in the village of Carmen.[100] In Sulaco, a 15-year-old boy drowned while trying to cross a river that was full due to rain.[101] A 37-year-old man also drowned in San Manuel, in the western part of the Lempira Department.[102] Total economic losses in Honduras are estimated to be over 125 billion lempiras (US$5 billion).[79][80]

Guatemala[change | change source]

According to the country's president, Alejandro Giammattei, at least 60% of the eastern city of Puerto Barrios was flooded with another 48 hours of rain expected. About 100 homes were damaged by flooding and landslides.[72] A bridge crossing the Río Grande de Zacapa in Jocotán was washed away.[103] At least 53 people died across Guatemala, while an additional 96 remain missing.[77] An estimated 343,000 people were directly affected by the storm.[104] The village of Queja near San Cristobal Verapaz in the center of the country was very hard-hit, with a landslide burying 150 homes.[76] Over 100 people were buried from the landslide, and rescuers began searching them on November 9.[105] However, the searching was called off two days later.[106] Infrastructural damage were amounted to be exceed Q3 billion (US$386 million).[77]

El Salvador[change | change source]

Heavy rainfall affected much of El Salvador as Eta passed to the northeast. Rainfall got over a total of 2.8 in (70 mm) with a maximum of 6.3 in (160 mm) in the La Unión Department. A total of 107 communities had power outages. Across the nation, 1,991 people required evacuation because of floods and landslides.[107] Even with a ban on fishing activities, one fisherman drowned off the coast of Playa El Espino in the Usulután Department.[74][107]

Costa Rica[change | change source]

The outer bands of Hurricane Eta brought heavy rainfall to portions of Costa Rica. The heaviest rains were mostly along the nation's Pacific coast, especially in Guanacaste Province.[108] Many reports of flooding and landslides happened nationwide, 12 rivers saw higher levels, making questions of more flooding, and 26 people had to evacuate in Corredores and Parrita.[109] In southern Costa Rica, a landslide on a house killed two people, a Costa Rican woman and an American man.[72] Damage while the storm was alive in the nation was almost 10 billion (US$16.5 million).[73]

Panama[change | change source]

The National Civil Protection System in Panama, Sinaproc, said that 200 homes were damaged by rainfall, maybe because of Eta.[110] The highway that connects the province of Chiriquí with Bocas del Toro collapsed near Hornito, blocking the passage of vehicles in both directions.[111] Flooding in Panama's Chiriqui province, near the Costa Rica border killed 19 people.[83] Farming-related damage loss was estimated at US$11 million.[84]

Belize[change | change source]

Communities along the Macal and Mopan rivers in western Belize experienced bad flooding due to Hurricane Eta.[112][113][114] Residents near the sea in San Ignacio had to be evacuated from their homes.[112]

Mexico[change | change source]

At least 27 people died as heavy rains because of Eta caused streams and rivers to be full.[81] Over 80,000 people were affected in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco by rains of Hurricane Eta and a cold front. In the Chiapas highlands, more than 2000 homes were destroyed. In San Cristóbal de las Casas, many neighborhoods were damaged by the flooding Amarillo and Fogótico rivers. An increase of a lot of water at the Peñitas Dam made evacuation plans. In Tabasco, more than 10 rivers overflowed their banks.[115]

Cayman Islands and Cuba[change | change source]

Eta brushed by the Cayman Islands just as it intensified back into a tropical storm, producing major impacts across the islands with Grand Cayman being hit the hardest. Wave action off the coast caused minor flooding on the coasts. Downed trees and tree branches also resulted. Power outages became common across the islands with tropical-storm force winds causing damage to power lines.[116]

Eta bought heavy rainfall in areas already dealing with overflowing rivers.[117] Coastal zones in Cuba were also flooded and about 25,000 people were forced to evacuate.[118]

United States[change | change source]

Florida[change | change source]

Tropical Storm Eta making landfall in the Florida Keys early on November 9.

The outer bands of Eta brought tropical storm-force gusts to South Florida beginning on November 7. A peak wind speed of 53 mph was reported in these outer bands near Dania Beach on November 7.[119] Florida Power & Light reported just over 30,000 power outages in the Miami metropolitan area, including nearly 16,000 in Miami-Dade County alone.[120][121] Overall, about 48,500 businesses and homes lost electricity throughout South Florida.[120] Heavy rainfall also affected the region, with a peak total of 15.79 in (401 mm) in Miramar, while rain gauges in Davie, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, and Sunrise measured more than 10 in (250 mm) of precipitation.[122] Flooding occurred in Broward, northern Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. One person was taken to the hospital in South Florida after being rescued from flooded roads.[120] In Brickell, recently installed storm water pumps to deal with tidal flooding and storms helped clear the flood water from the rain and high tide event.[123] One of the state's largest COVID-19 testing sites, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, was flooded.[124]

On November 11, a sailboat became lodged partially underneath the Matlacha Bridge, causing the bridge to be temporarily closed thus cutting off transportation to and from Pine Island.[125] Around the same area two other boats sank due to turbulent surf caused by the storm and a dock at the Bridgewater Inn floated away.[125] A man died in Bradenton Beach when he was electrocuted by an appliance in standing water caused by the storm and a firefighter was injured as he tried to access the home.[126][127] Flooding in Pinellas County caused 33 people to be rescued by the Pinellas County Sheriff Office from homes and roadways and in Gulfport, five sailboats became unanchored and ran aground or were pushed up against a seawall.[128] Losses statewide were estimated at US$1 billion.[88]

Officially, Eta made two landfalls in Florida - it hit the central part of the Florida Keys late Sunday, November 7, and made landfall again at about 4 a.m. Thursday, November 10, near Cedar Key, roughly 130 miles north of Tampa.[129]

The Carolinas and Virginia[change | change source]

Moisture from Eta combined with a cold front moving eastward across the Eastern United States, generating extremely heavy rainfall across Virginia and the Carolinas. At least eleven [87] people were killed due to flooding in the Carolinas, including a child, while over 33 people were rescued in a flooded campground. In Charlotte, North Carolina, more than 140 people were rescued from a school when floodwaters reached the first-floor windows. In Raleigh, North Carolina, multiple car accidents occurred due to slick roads. All lanes of Interstate 95 near the city were closed due to flooding. Over 10 inches (250 mm) of rain fell in some areas of North and South Carolina.[130]

Related pages[change | change source]

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