The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season threw a late season curveball Tuesday: Hurricane Otto off the coast of Central America.
The rare late-season storm strengthened from a tropical storm after it spent much of the afternoon stalled over warm Caribbean waters. In Panama, the storm was blamed for three deaths, including that of a child, after triggering a landslide and downing tree branches.
National Hurricane Center forecasters said early Wednesday that the storm was located about 185 miles east-northeast of Limon, Costa Rica, and 235 miles east-southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua, with sustained winds of 70 mph and moving west-northwest at about 5 mph.
Otto sets a new record for the latest hurricane to ever form in the Caribbean, forecasters said, breaking a record set by Hurricane Martha in 1969 by a day.
7Otto becomes the seventh hurricane of the 2016 and the latest to form in the Caribbean
A hurricane watch and tropical storm watches and warnings were issued up and down the Central American coast, from Nicaragua to Costa Rica.
Otto is expected to strengthen and pick up speed as it approaches the coast on Thursday. Forecasters warn that the storm could dump up to 12 inches of rain, with higher totals between 15 and 20 inches in some locations. Life-threatening rip currents could also slam the coast over the next few days.
Otto becomes the seventh hurricane in an above average season, just over a week before it officially ends on Nov. 30. Warm water and light wind shear helped Otto intensify. It’s expected to make landfall as a Category 1 storm Thursday but will likely weaken as it crosses the mountainous countries and not restrengthen in the Pacific.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich.