Thousands flee Costa Rican coast, Otto weakens but expected to restrengthen

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.

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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.

Otto takes aim at Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Otto takes aim at Costa Rica and Nicaragua

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.”

Otto becomes seventh hurricane of 2016 season

Update 3:48 p.m.: Otto has become the seventh hurricane of the 2016 season with 75 mph winds.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm has become more symmetric, with a large area of intense thunderstorms near the center.

The storm is forecast to reach 90 mph winds before hitting somewhere in Costa Rica or Nicaragua on Thursday. If Otto makes landfall in Costa Rica, it will be the first time the Central American nation has had a direct hit from a hurricane.

Update 12:45 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has issued a special advisory alerting that Tropical Storm Otto is expected to become a hurricane later today.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the border of Costa Rica and Panama to Bluefields, Nicaragua.

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Otto has sustained 70 mph winds that are expected to reach 90 mph – a strong Category 1 storm – by Thursday.

“To impact Costa Rica, it really has to form right where it’s forming now and that doesn’t happen very often,” said James Franklin, chief of the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane specialist unit. “Nicaragua is a fair bit more common.”

If Otto makes landfall in Costa Rica, it will be the first time the Central American nation had a direct hit from a hurricane.

The center of the forecast track has it just off the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua at 7 a.m. Thursday.

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Otto is expected to maintain tropical cyclone strength as it crosses Central America, emerging into the Pacific as a tropical storm.

If it were to disintegrate over land, but reform in the Pacific, it would become Virgil.

Update 10 a.m.: National Hurricane Center forecasters have increased the intensity forecast for Tropical Storm Otto, expecting it to become a strong Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds before it hits Central America.

Otto is close to becoming a hurricane with 70 mph winds this morning and satellite images indicate the cloud pattern has become better organized.

The increased intensity forecast means Otto will like remain a tropical cyclone during its trip through Central America, emerging into the Pacific as a tropical storm.

“Land interaction will cause weakening after landfall, but a stronger Otto is less likely to dissipate as quickly over the eastern Pacific,” forecasters wrote this morning.

Otto is forecast to hit somewhere along the Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica or Nicaragua on Thursday.

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Previous story: Tropical Storm Otto has increased to 70 mph winds and is expected to become a hurricane Wednesday before hitting the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The storm, which is forecast to build to a Category 1 with at least 80 mph winds, is on track to make landfall Thursday and be near the Pacific Coast by early Friday.

Follow the storm on The Palm Beach Post’s interactive tracking map. 

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Otto is unusual for forming this late in the hurricane season, but it is taking advantage of the ultra-warm waters of the Caribbean and a pocket of atmosphere where there is little wind shear to help tear it apart.

Read: November hurricanes rare, but surprises do happen. 

“This is the favored area in November for development,” said Carl Parker, a hurricane expert with The Weather Channel. “The water temps are probably in the mid-80s and when the atmosphere is right, it’s entirely possible to get something going down there.”

The baseline sea surface temperature needed for hurricane formation is 80 degrees.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

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As of the 7 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Otto was about 335 miles east southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua and was not moving. It’s minimum central pressure was 986 mb.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for San Andres Island, which is a Colombian coral island in the Caribbean Sea. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area within 48 hours.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Otto is expected to strengthen over the next 48 hours and begin moving west. Rainfall is a big concern with Otto with forecasters predicting up to 6 inches of rain with this storm. Some areas could get up to 15 inches.

“These rains could result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides,” hurricane center forecasters wrote. “Additional heaving rainfall may move into portions of Costa Rica Wednesday night into Thursday as the system approaches the coast.”

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Thanksgiving weather: Who will see snow, freezing rain and possibly a hurricane

Indulgent days of sunny skies await South Florida this Thanksgiving week, but anyone venturing to other regions of the U.S. may face freezing rain, thunderstorms or several feet of snow.

There’s even a burgeoning tropical cyclone in the southwest Caribbean.

In an unusual late-season move by Mother Nature, Tropical Storm Otto formed Monday in the southwest Caribbean and is expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday. The storm, which is no threat to the U.S., is forecast to make landfall in Costa Rica or Nicaragua as a Category 1 cyclone on Thursday. Maximum sustained winds could reach 80 mph.

 

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

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Besides Otto’s oddball formation, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said there’s nothing too out of the ordinary occurring as far weather patterns go across the U.S.

A robust low pressure system that dragged so-called winter storm Argos – named by The Weather Channel – through the northeast is making its way into the North Atlantic Ocean. Behind it is a second low pressure system that on Tuesday will harass the central and northern plains with snow, rain and freezing rain.

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By Thanksgiving, that system will bring rain to a large slice of the country from Alabama to Michigan and into Virginia and Maryland. Areas further north, including upstate Pennsylvania and New York could see snow and ice.

“There doesn’t look to be any record heat or record cold,” Walker said. “Things are more seasonable than what we’ve had.”

Still, anyone traveling to central and upstate New York may be warily eyeing current conditions.

A wide area including Binghamton, Syracruse, Rochester and Utica had received one to 2 feet of snow as of Monday morning and was expecting more before tapering off later Tuesday.

Dave Nicosia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, said it was just 25 degrees Monday at noon with sustained 17 mph winds pushing wind-chill temps down into the single digits.

“So, yeah, it’s cold up here,” Nicosia said.

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The chill may have been especially shocking considering Saturday’s high temperature in Binghamto was 66 degrees.

“We were just basking in what we would consider warmth and now we are under a foot-and-a-half of snow and it’s 25 degrees,” Nicosia said.

The coldest areas of the country toward the end of the week will be in the northern and central Rockies where high temperatures aren’t expected to reach much above freezing.

In Vail, Colo., Thanksgiving daytime highs will struggle to hit 32 degrees, with an overnight low of 6 degrees. That follows a winter storm warning that is in effect through 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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“It’s still a pretty warm storm for us and over in Vail they’ll be getting about 4-8 inches,” said Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Colo. “Once you get above 10,000 feet, there could be a foot or more.”

Telluride ski area, which is in the San Juan Mountains, if forecast to get up to 14 inches of snow.

Renwick said much of the snow will be finished Tuesday afternoon, but another little system that moves through Thanksgiving morning will dump 3 to 6 inches in the Steamboat Springs area northwest of Denver.

“This is pretty normal for us,” Renwick said.

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Tropical Storm Otto has formed in the southwest Caribbean

Tropical Storm Otto has formed in the southwest Caribbean with 50 mph winds.

The system, which is the 15th named storm of the year, is expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday morning. Otto will not affect the U.S.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s interactive storm tracking map. 

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Forecasters announced Otto in a special 1 p.m. advisory after noting the depression had strengthened on satellite imagery.

“Additional intensification is expected and Otto could become a hurricane in 48 hours, or sooner,” forecasters wrote.

Read: November hurricanes rare, but surprises do happen. 

Hurricane season runs through the end of November, but it’s unusual for tropical cyclones to form this late in the year.

A tropical storm watch could be issued later today or tonight for areas including Costa Rica and Nicaragua. As of 1 p.m., Otto was about 305 miles east of Bluefields, Nicaragua.

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The biggest concerns with Otto are outer rain bands that could drop 3 to 6 inches of rain across parts of Panama and Costa Rica through Wednesday.

“These rains could result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides,” NHC forecasters said. “Additional heavy rainfall may move into portions of Costa Rica Wednesday night into Thursday as the system approaches the coast.”

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

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