Nana to gain strength, strike Belize as hurricane

Sept. 2 (UPI) — Nana, currently zipping westward over the Caribbean Sea, is expected to strike Central America as the fourth hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season with flooding rain, damaging wind and pounding surf prior to the end of this week.

As of 7 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Nana was located about 50 miles north-northeast of Isla Roatan, Honduras, and 100 miles east-southeast of Belize City, Belize. The small tropical storm was packing 60-mph sustained winds and was moving to the west at 15 mph. Meteorologists expect Nana to reach Category 1 hurricane status prior to making landfall early Thursday morning in Belize, a country located just to the south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in Central America.

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A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Belize from Belize City southward to the Belize-Guatemala border, the National Hurricane Center said. A hurricane watch remains in effect for the coast of Belize from north of Belize City to the Belize-Mexico border.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Mexico from Puerto Costa Maya to Chetumal. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect from the northern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Guatemala border, as well as Roatan Island and the Bay Islands of Honduras as well as the Caribbean Sea coast of Guatemala.

Building seas, torrential downpours and gusty thunderstorms will precede Nana into early Thursday over portions of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, southeastern Mexico and Nicaragua. Small craft should remain in port in this region, and bathers should avoid the surf due to increasing rip currents.

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“Since Nana will stay over the warm open waters of the Gulf of Honduras until its landfall early Thursday, we expect additional strengthening up to that point. We expect the storm to become a hurricane,” AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.

As Nana pushes inland over Central America, rainfall will ramp up and winds will gradually decrease as the storm unwinds during Thursday and Friday.

A general 1-4 inches of rain is forecast from northern and western Honduras to northern El Salvador, southeastern Mexico, including much of Belize and Guatemala.

“The heaviest rain with an AccuWeather StormMax of 8 inches is likely in the mountains of Guatemala and southernmost Mexico,” Kottlowski said.

“The greatest risk to lives and property in the region will be from flash flooding and mudslides although wind gusts will be strong enough, especially in coastal areas to cause damage to weak structures, knock down trees and trigger power outages,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

AccuWeather meteorologists believe Nana will rate a 1 on the RealImpact Scale in Central America due primarily to the storm’s small size, but also the flooding and mudslide potential. This scale was introduced by AccuWeather in 2019 to better relay the full impact of hurricanes and tropical storms. Unlike the Saffir-Simpson scale, which is based solely on wind speeds, the RealImpact Scale factors in other key weather elements.

Even though Nana is forecast to reach Category 1 hurricane status on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds between 74 and 95 mph, the AccuWeather StormMaxwind gust for land areas is estimated to be 70 mph for this storm.

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Only if the storm reaches the higher threshold of a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale would wind gusts need to be raised over land. However, that seems highly unlikely at this point.

There is a remote chance the circulation from Nana survives the trip over the rugged mountains of Central America and reaches the Pacific Ocean.

Should this occur and the system strengthens over the warm waters of the Pacific, it would be assigned a new name based on the list of Eastern Pacific tropical storms.

“While there is a small chance that Nana survives and reaches the Pacific, we feel it is much more likely for the storm to break up over the mountains, due to its small size,” Kottlowski said.

Nana continued the streak of record-setting early tropical storm formations in 2020. Every storm from Edouard through Nana and most recently Omar all set new early-season marks for their designated letter. In addition, Cristobal also set a new early season mark for the “C” storm. The majority of the old record holders were set during the brutal 2005 hurricane season, which brought Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

This year is likely to continue to set more early formation records, with the next storms on the bubble being Philippe from Sept. 17, 2005, and Rita from Sept. 18, 2005. The next names on the list for 2020 are Paulette and Rene.

The area east of Africa to the Caribbean is likely to continue to generate tropical systems or be a source of origin in the coming weeks.

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There exists a moderate chance of tropical depression formation in this zone from late this week to early next week as a strong disturbance drifts westward.

Even though the peak of hurricane season occurs on Sept. 10, hurricane season continues through the end of November, and this year the Atlantic has the potential to remain active through November and perhaps into December.

Once all of the letters of the alphabet have been exhausted, Greek letters will then be used. The letters U, X, Y and Z are not used. The 2005 season was the only year in which the Greek alphabet had to be accessed for hurricane names.

Early this summer, AccuWeather meteorologists predicted a hyperactive peak hurricane season, which is now underway. AccuWeather meteorologists are calling for up to 24 tropical storms and up to 11 hurricanes this season.

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