Tropical Storm Eta formed overnight [on Sunday, Nov. 1] in the Caribbean, becoming the Atlantic’s 28th storm of 2020 and tying a 2005 record for the most named systems in a single year in records going back to 1851.
Forming southeast of Jamaica, Eta will probably become a hurricane with winds reaching 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour before coming ashore in Nicaragua or Honduras sometime Tuesday or Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said. Eta could bring as much as 20 inches of rain across Honduras and Nicaragua with some areas getting up to 30 inches.
“This rainfall may lead to life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain,” Dan Brown, a hurricane center meteorologist, wrote in his forecast. “Eta is expected to become a hurricane Monday.”
Records have fallen across the Atlantic basin. So many storms have formed that the hurricane center has used up all its official names and has resorted to designating storms with Greek letters. The tally matches the record set in 2005, which was when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
While the amount of energy produced by 2020’s storms lags several other seasons, the year produced a number of records including 11 strikes on the U.S., and six landfalls in Louisiana, which include Hurricanes Laura and Delta, said Phil Klotzbach, a tropical cyclone researcher with Colorado State University.
It’s estimated this year’s storms have killed about 160 people across the basin, and the numerous storms crossing through the U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s oil and natural gas fields have led to several shutdowns and evacuations.
If Eta becomes a hurricane, it will be only the third time 12 of the powerful storms have formed in the Atlantic in a single year, Klotzbach tweeted. The other years were 1969, which produced Camille, 2005, and 2010.
While 2020 matches 2005 with 28 storms, this is the first time Eta has been used to name a storm. In 2005, the 28th storm wasn’t added until a post-season analysis of data, so this is also the earliest so many systems have been recorded across the Atlantic.
Photograph: Utility poles are felled after Hurricane Delta made landfall in Creole, Louisiana, on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Photo credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg