Hurricane Eta erupted quickly into a potentially catastrophic major hurricane Monday as it headed for Central America, where forecasters warned of massive flooding and landslides across a vulnerable region. Eta had maximum sustained winds of 120mph and was located about 85 miles east of the Nicaragua-Honduras border, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving west at 9mph, the AP reports. It said the Category 3 hurricane is likely to strengthen further before running ashore by early Tuesday in Nicaragua, where it could bring rains measured in feet rather than inches. Forecasters said central and northern Nicaragua into much of Honduras could get 15 to 25 inches of rain, with 35 inches in isolated areas. Heavy rains also were likely in eastern Guatemala, southern Belize and Jamaica. Storm surge up to 15 feet above normal tides was possible for the coast of Nicaragua. Much of Honduras was placed on red alert.
Nicaragua's navy carried families in open boats, mostly women and children with the possessions they could carry from outer islands to the mainland under a low gray sky. The launching any boats along the stretch of coastline expected to receive Eta was prohibited. Offshore residents were taken to shelters in Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, the primary city of the Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region that is home to some 66,000 people, according to Guillermo González, director of the Nicaragua’s national emergency management agency. Traffic filled the streets of Bilwi on Monday morning as residents scrambled to stock up before Eta’s arrival. Long lines snaked away from cash machines. "We’re in a race against time," said a man who waited in line at a hardware store. "We need to reinforce our houses to dampen the impact of the winds a little." Heavy black plastic, garbage bags, nails, and rope were in high demand.
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