Tropical Storm Eta strengthened into a powerfulhurricane Monday while heading for Central America, and forecasters warned it could prove "devastating." Eta, whose for the most named storms in as single season, is now the strongest hurricane of the year. It is expected to make landfall after midnight along Nicaragua's coast, where a hurricane warning is in effect.
Eta's maximum sustained winds reached 150 miles per hour Monday evening, up from 75 mph hours since the overnight hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli noted that Eta's winds are just a few miles per hour shy of reaching Category 5, and the storm is still intensifying.
CBS News weather producer David Parkinson stressed that the storm will be "devastating" to Central America "with those wind speeds near the coast and a torrent of 15-35 inches of rain inland. Mudslides are a near certainty in Nicaragua along with Guatemala and Honduras, and potentially even Mexico, too. The rain isn't likely to come to an end before Friday."
The U.S. National Hurricane Center, in Miami, said Eta will bring a "life-threatening" storm surge of 12 to 18 feet, damaging winds, flash flooding and mudslides.
The center said Eta will weaken once in moves inland.
Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. However, this is the first time the Greek letter Eta is being used as a storm name because after the 2005 season ended, meteorologists went back and determined there had been a storm that should have gotten a name but didn't.
Hurricane season still has a month to go, officially ending on November 30. But in 2005, Zeta formed toward the end of December.