“Continued strengthening is expected before it makes landfall along the northeastern coast of Nicaragua on Tuesday,” the NHC said.
As of 1 p.m. EST, the storm is located about 85 miles east of the border of Nicaragua and Honduras and is moving west at 9 mph.
Eta is forecast to make landfall along the coast of Nicaragua on Tuesday. The center of Eta is then forecast to move farther inland over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday night.
Eta nearly tripled in strength in just 24 hours, rapidly intensifying from a 40 mph tropical storm Sunday morning to a 110 mph storm by Monday morning. Eta is now the eighth Atlantic storm this season to hit the meteorologists’ definition for rapid intensification.
“Satellite data indicate that Eta continues to rapidly strengthen,” the NHC said.
The storm is expected to keep gathering strength, becoming a Category 4 hurricane with winds between 130 and 156 mph. Strengthening will continue until the storm roars into Nicaragua.
“Weakening will begin after the system moves inland,” forecasters said.
In addition to catastrophic winds near the center of the storm, Eta is expected to bring 14 to 25 inches of rain to much of Nicaragua and Honduras, with rain spreading across Central America and up into Mexico.
“This rainfall would lead to catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain of Central America,” the NHC said.
A storm surge of up to 18 feet is also possible along the coast of Nicaragua.
Nicaragua’s navy evacuated the Miskito Cays of about 1,650 residents along the coast on Sunday and prohibited launching any boats along the stretch of coastline. Nicaragua’s government has also placed northern provinces on alert as Eta is expected to move through the country’s northern mountains after coming ashore.
Over the past couple of decades, meteorologists have been increasingly worried about storms that just blow up in strength, like Eta. They created an official threshold for this dangerous powering up — a storm gaining 35 mph in wind speed in just 24 hours.
Earlier this year Hannah, Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma, Delta, and Zeta all rapidly intensified. An eighth storm, Marco, just missed the mark. Laura and Delta tied or set records for rapid intensification.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate and hurricane scientist Jim Kossin studied the effect and found storms now are more likely to rapidly intensify than they did in the 1980s and “a lot of that has to do with human-caused climate change.”
Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms.
There is just one month left in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, but this season has broken numerous records as forecasters in September ran out of traditional names and went to the Greek alphabet for storms Alpha and Beta.
NOAA forecasters had called for up to 25 named storms this season with winds of 39 mph or higher; of those, seven to 10 could become hurricanes. Among those hurricanes, three to six will be major, classified as Category 3, 4 and 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher.
That’s far above an average year. Based on 1981-to-2010 data, that is 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. So far this year, there have been 28 named storms, including 12 hurricanes and, of those, five major hurricanes.
The last time the Greek alphabet was used in the Atlantic was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. With a total of 28 storms that year, the first six letters of the Greek alphabet were used: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta.
Fox News’ Janice Dean, Brandon Noriega, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.