The National Hurricane Center said this morning that an Air Force Hurricane Hunter found that Otto has weakened to a tropical storm with sustained 70 mph winds as it heads to toward the west northwest at 5 mph.
A 7 a.m. advisory shows Otto is expected to restrengthen into a hurricane before hitting somewhere along the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua Thursday morning.
Maximum sustained winds are expected to reach 80 mph before landfall.
The Tico Times reports that Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has ordered the mandatory evacuation of about 4,000 coastal residents.
Hurricane center forecasters said as much as 20 inches of rain could fall in isolated areas of northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua, and they are warning of “life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.”
(Translation: We continue evacuating red alert zones in North Caribbean, the exit is obligatory)
Otto, which poses no threat to the U.S., is the latest-forming hurricane since 2005’s Epsilon, which developed Dec. 2 far west of Bermuda. Hurricane season runs June 1 -Nov. 30. Otto is the seventh hurricane this year.
Costa Rica has never experienced a direct hurricane landfall, according to James Franklin, chief of the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane specialist unit.
Franklin said he’s not ruling out the possibility that Otto could strengthen beyond Category 1 , and expects it to maintain tropical cyclone strength as it travels over Central America and into the Pacific Ocean. If Otto does disintegrate over land and reform in the Pacific, it would be renamed Virgil.
“To impact Costa Rica, it really has to form right where it’s forming now, and that doesn’t happen very often,” Franklin said. “It’s quite a rare event for a storm to maintain tropical cyclone status all the way across into the Pacific.”