Tropical Storm Bonnie makes landfall Friday night in Central America
A tropical rainstorm will bring gusty winds and flooding rain to northern South America late this week before it strengthens and takes aim at Central America this weekend.
Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall around 11 p.m. EDT Friday night along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. The second named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season was upgraded to tropical storm strength earlier on Friday following its unusual track across the southern Caribbean and northern coast of South America. The storm may now put a very unusual stamp in the history books after crossing Central America.
Bonnie gained strength as it neared the east coasts of Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica throughout the afternoon on Friday.
A satellite loop from July 1, 2022, shows Tropical Storm Bonnie forming in the southwestern Caribbean Sea.
At the time of landfall, Bonnie was moving swiftly toward the west at 16 mph (26 km/h). Maximum sustained winds were 50 mph (85 km/h) with a central minimum pressure of 997 mb, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Prior to moving into the southwestern Caribbean, interaction with the northern coasts of South America hindered the system's ability to organize from a tropical rainstorm into Tropical Storm Bonnie.
As AccuWeather accurately predicted, Bonnie was expected to gain wind intensity until it moves inland across far southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica Friday night and make landfall as a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds between 50 and 60 mph (80 to 96 km/h).
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica as of mid-afternoon Friday.
The storm will continue to threaten parts of Central America with strong winds and flooding rainfall on Saturday. Portions of Nicaragua and Costa Rica will be the two areas at the greatest risk from this tropical threat.
The strongest winds from the storm are expected at landfall and along its direct path. Much of southern Nicaragua is expected to receive wind gusts on the order of 60-80 mph (100-130 km/h) late Friday into Saturday as the storm nears the coast. An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ wind gust of 100 mph (160 km/h) is possible near the point of landfall.
The heaviest rainfall of 8-12 inches (200-300 mm) is forecast to fall over a large portion of southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 26 inches (660 mm). Even outside of the heaviest rainfall, widespread amounts of more than 4 inches (100 mm) of rain are expected across almost all of Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.
Rainfall of this magnitude can cause major flooding issues if it comes down hard and fast enough. This scenario is exactly what forecasters are concerned about for the region.
Flash flooding is likely across the area, and torrential rain can quickly lead to mudslides, especially in the region's elevated terrain.
"While rainfall is expected to be excessive and the likelihood of flash flooding and mudslides is high, the fast forward motion of the storm should limit the duration of the rainfall and strongest winds to 24 hours or less in Nicaragua and Costa Rica," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explained.
Matters could be made much worse if the storm were moving at a slower speed or were to stall out and unleash round after round of torrential rainfall over the same areas, Sosnowski added.
Bonnie has been rated a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in Central America due largely to the anticipated flooding rainfall.
As a rainstorm, Bonnie has already proved disruptive on its journey so far. The government of Venezuela on Wednesday closed schools and opened shelters while also limited air and ground transportation due to the threat of heavy rain, The Associated Press reported.
The island of Curacao ordered businesses to close and imposed a curfew that began late Wednesday morning, the AP reported. Power outages were reported in Trinidad & Tobago earlier this week due to the storm's passage.
Central America was badly impacted by two major hurricanes at the end of the historic 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Eta struck northeastern Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm on Nov. 3 and was blamed for at least 165 deaths in Central America.
Just about two weeks later, Hurricane Iota barreled into the coast of Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm on Nov. 16. Iota was blamed for at least 84 deaths across Central America, and the NHC estimated that the storm impacted 7 million people across the Caribbean and Central America.
After moving through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the southern coast of Mexico, the storm is expected to emerge into the eastern Pacific this weekend, likely sometime Saturday. AccuWeather forecasters say this type of development and storm track are highly unusual at this point in hurricane season.
"Usually, storms moving into southern Mexico or Central America are shredded by the higher terrain of the area and do not cross into the East Pacific," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Danny Pydynowski explained. "However, this storm is tracking so far south that it could accomplish this rare feat since it is forecast to travel over the narrower part of Central America with less terrain overall."
Since the storm is not expected to dissipate while crossing Central America, it will retain the name Bonnie once it emerges in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Conditions in the East Pacific are currently conducive for development, meaning that once the storm is able to cross into the basin, it will be able to strengthen. It is even forecast to become even stronger than its strongest level in the Atlantic basin and become a hurricane early next week.
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