The remnants of what was once Hurricane Eta drenched Central America on Thursday as forecasters tried to determine what the system could bring to Florida early next week.
The disorganized center of Eta, which was a tropical depression on Thursday morning, was over Honduras and moving northwest at 9 mph. The slow movement resulted in heavy rains in Central America. At least 13 deaths were attributed to the storm.
The system is expected to move back over the Caribbean Sea and potentially strengthen into a tropical storm, then move toward Cuba and Florida, according to Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Diane Kacmarik.
“Forecast confidence is low and there are several reasons why,” she said.
Forecasters will watch to see how well Eta re-organizes over the Caribbean. Kacmarik said models are not in agreement about that, but that forecasters should have a better idea of a future track by Friday or Saturday. The current forecast has the system moving over Cuba on Sunday and getting to South Florida by Monday or Tuesday.
“This scenario would bring higher rain chances and some higher winds to our area. How much rain and wind depends on what type of a system it will be since wind shear, land interaction, lower water temperatures and how far north the system moves will all have impacts,” Kacmarik said. “The bottom line is there are several things to watch during the next few days. While there are a number of uncertainties in the forecast through early next week, we do expect an increase in humidity, cloud cover, and rain chances in our area.”
The chance of rain is only 10 percent today in the Tampa Bay area but increases to 40-50 percent over the weekend and into early next week. It also will be windy with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the low- to mid-70s.
The Associated Press account of Eta’s effect on Central America follows:
The rain-heavy remains of Hurricane Eta flooded homes in Honduras on Thursday as the death toll across Central America rose to at least 13. Forecasters said the once-mighty storm was expected to regather form and head toward Cuba and possibly the Gulf of Mexico by early next week.
The storm that hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday had become more of a vast tropical rainstorm, but it was advancing so slowly and dumping so much rain that much of Central America remained on high alert.
Eta had sustained winds of 30 mph and was moving northwest at 9 mph Thursday. It was centered 80 miles south of La Ceiba, Honduras.
Guatemala authorities reported four dead Thursday, adding to seven victims in Honduras and two in Nicaragua.
Two children died when their home collapsed under heavy rains in the central Guatemala department of Quiche, according to a statement by local firefighters. A third person also died in Quiche, but details were not immediately available. President Alejandro Giammattei confirmed a fourth death in a landslide in Chinautla north of the capital Wednesday night.
Authorities reported nearly 100 homes damaged by flooding and landslides in Guatemala.
Heavy rain was forecast to continue across Honduras through at least Thursday as Eta moves toward the northern city of San Pedro Sula.
Honduras Fire Department spokesman Óscar Triminio said the country’s death toll from Eta had risen to seven Thursday. In mountains outside the north coast city of Tela, the body of a girl buried in a landslide Wednesday was recovered by residents. In the same area, a large landslide buried a home with a mother and two children inside it. The community was still inaccessible by road and the bodies had not been recovered, he said.
Triminio said a 2-year-old girl was killed in Santa Barbara department when she and her mother were swept away by floodwaters. The mother survived.
Much of the town of Villanueva, just south of San Pedro Sula, was under floodwaters as Thursday dawned. The Ulua river overwhelmed its banks, but there were no immediate reports of deaths.
Dozens of residents of the San Pedro Sula neighborhood of Satelite had to abandon their homes at 4 a.m. Thursday when water from the Chamelecon river arrived at their doorsteps.
Honduran officials earlier reported that a 12-year-old girl died in a mudslide and a 15-year-old boy drowned trying to cross a rain-swollen river. Two other deaths were reported in Nicaragua.
Marvin Aparicio of Honduras' emergency management agency said Wednesday that some 457 homes had been damaged, mostly by floodwaters. There were 41 communities cut off by washed-out roads and nine bridges in the country were wiped out by swollen rivers.
Among those rescued were Karen Patricia Serrano, her husband and five children. Their home was flooded with waters from the Lancetilla river and they had been in a shelter in the northern city of Tela since Monday.
“We lost everything,” the 32-year-old woman said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. My husband is 74 years old and because of his age he can’t work. I even lost my little animals,” she said, referring to chickens, cats and dogs.
Óscar Armando Martínez Flores, his wife and seven children were in the same shelter. Their home near the Lancetilla river also flooded, and they made it out only with the clothes they were wearing.
“The rains began Monday and the river overflowed,” Martínez said Wednesday. “The firefighters and police arrived to take us out because the houses were flooded.”
Martínez was already in dire straits before the storm. A construction worker, he hadn’t been able to find work in eight months since the coronavirus pandemic began there. He has been selling tortillas to keep his family afloat.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast that parts of Nicaragua and Honduras could receive 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 40 inches possible in some isolated parts.
- The Associated Press portion of this story is by Marlon González, Sonia Pérez D. and Christopher Sherman.
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