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Hurricane “Otto” kills 4 in Panama, to hit Costa Rica and Nicaragua

hurricane-otto-2016-panama-costa-rica-nicaragua

Hurricane "Otto" formed on November 22, 2016 in the Caribbean Sea as the 7th hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, including record-breaking, early season Hurricane "Alex" of January 2016. Otto was nearly stationary system since it became a tropical storm on the 21st but is now slowly moving toward Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The main threats are life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. At least 4 people have been killed in Panama. Massive evacuations are in progress.

Otto is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale somewhere near the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border around 18:00 UTC on Thursday, November 24. It is rare for a storm of Otto's ferocity to make landfall so far south in the Caribbean.

Strong winds and heavy rain associated with this late season hurricane are already affecting Panama and Costa Rica, and have claimed at least 4 lives in Panama on Tuesday, November 22. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said another 4 people are considered missing.

According to the BBC, two victims died in a mudslide, a girl drowned in a river and a boy died when a tree fell on the car taking him to school. His mother, driving, survived. Officials said about 50 homes were destroyed by mudslides. Flights have been delayed and schools suspended until Thursday.

Looking at the statistics, Otto is the latest Atlantic hurricane to form since Epsilon of 2005, the latest hurricane (in the calendar year) in the western Caribbean on record (since 1851), breaking old record set by Martha in 1969. According to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, 0 hurricanes on record (since 1851) have made landfall in Costa Rica. The latest hurricane (in the calendar year) to make landfall in Nicaragua was Ida on November 5, 2009.

At 09:00 UTC on November 23, the center of Hurricane "Otto" was located about 300 km (185 miles) east-northeast of Limón, Costa Rica, and about 390 km (240 miles) east-northeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. Maximum sustained winds were 120 km/h (75 mph), with gusts to 150 km/h (90 mph). Otto's minimum barometric pressure was 988 hPa, and the system was moving west-northwest at 7 km/h (5 mph), according to NWS/NHC.

Some strengthening is expected before Otto makes landfall, with weakening expected after the center moves inland.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 20 km (10 miles) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 95 km (60 miles from the center of Otto.

Hurricane Otto forecast track by NHC at 09:00 UTC on November 23, 2016

Hurricane "Otto" forecast track by NHC at 09:00 UTC on November 23, 2016

Tropical Cyclone

Tropical Cyclone "Otto" on November 22, 2016. Credit: NASA/NOAA/DoD Suomi NPP/VIIRS

Hazards affecting land

Rainfall

Outer rain bands from Otto are expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 101.6 to 203.2 mm (4 to 8 inches) over San Andres and Providencia islands, and the higher terrain of central and western Panama and southern Costa Rica through today. Total rainfall of 152.4 to 304.8 mm (6 to 12 inches), with isolated amounts of 381 to 508 mm (15 to 20 inches), can be expected across northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua through Thursday.

These rains will likely result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

72 hours of rainfall accumulation generated by Tropical Cyclone Otto by 03:00 UTC on November 23, 2016

72 hours of rainfall accumulation generated by Tropical Cyclone "Otto" by 03:00 UTC on November 23, 2016

Wind

Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area on Thursday, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin overnight tonight or Thursday morning EST, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Hurricane conditions are possible in the hurricane watch area on Thursday.

Tropical storm conditions are expected within warning area in Nicaragua tonight and Thursday. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the tropical storm watch area in Panama today and in San Andres later today. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area along the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua by Thursday night.

Tropical storm force wind speed probabilities - TC OTTO, November 23, 2016

Tropical storm force wind speed probabilities – Hurricane "Otto", November 23, 2016

Surface wind field of Hurricane Otto November 23, 2016

Surface wind field – Hurricane "Otto" November 23, 2016

Storm surge

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and large and destructive waves could raise water levels by as much 61 to 122 cm (2 to 4 feet) above normal tide levels in areas of onshore flow within the hurricane warning area.

Surf

Swells generated by Otto are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions over the next several days along the coasts of Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.

Tropical Cyclone "Otto" on November 22, 2016. Credit: NASA/NOAA/DoD Suomi NPP/VIIRS

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