Hurricane Otto Hours Away From Landfall

COSTA RICA – Hurricane Otto is just hours away from making landfall Thursday near the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, posing a danger of flooding and mudslides in parts of Central America.

A Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigating Otto Thursday morning has found that it’s now a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. This makes Otto the strongest Atlantic hurricane this late in the season since 1934, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.

The center of Otto will most likely move inland in southern Nicaragua, making it the latest in a calendar year that a hurricane has made landfall in that country.

A hurricane warning continues from Limon, Costa Rica, to Bluefields, Nicaragua.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the coast of Nicaragua north of Bluefields to Sandy Bay Sirpi, and for the coast of Costa Rica south of Limon to the Costa Rica/Panama border.

Otto was located about 80 miles southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua, as of Thursday morning. Satellite imagery shows an eye forming, an indication of Otto’s growing strength Thursday morning.

Tropical storm-force winds currently extend up to 70 miles from the center of circulation, making Otto a small hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend to 10 miles from the center.

Locations in the hurricane warning area will experience tropical storm conditions much of Thursday. The small area of hurricane-force winds will arrive late Thursday morning into the afternoon.

Heavy rain, flash flooding and mudslides are still the biggest concerns for Central America, particularly in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Some locations may pick up 20 inches of rain from Otto.

In addition, areas of heavy rain well to the north and south of the circulation may trigger flooding in parts of Honduras and Panama.

A storm surge from 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels, with large, battering waves riding atop the surge, is expected in areas of the hurricane warning where winds will be blowing onshore in Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica. Life-threatening high surf and rip currents will occur through at least Thursday along the Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Near the center of Otto’s track near and a few hours after landfall, some structural damage to homes, downed trees and power outages are expected.

Otto is expected to weaken soon after making landfall, as the circulation is hampered by the higher terrain of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

However, Otto is expected to survive in some form once it emerges into the eastern Pacific Ocean, but will then face increasing wind shear and dry air in the eastern Pacific into this weekend. When Otto re-emerges into the Pacific, it will retain the name Otto.

November Atlantic Basin tropical cyclones aren’t all that unusual.

In November, tropical cyclones typically form where the waters are warmest. Thus, one cluster of storms forming in November is in the western Caribbean Sea.

A second broad area of formation is in a broad swath of the western and central Atlantic Ocean, sometimes spinning off from an old frontal boundary, sometimes transitioning from a cold-core low to a subtropical or tropical cyclone.

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