MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hurricane Eta has continued to rapidly strengthen as it approaches northeastern Nicaragua.

At 10 p.m. Monday, the storm was 45 miles east-northeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

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Eta is moving toward the west-southwest near 7 mph, and this general motion is expected to continue through early Tuesday.

A slower westward or west-northwestward motion is forecast to begin by Tuesday afternoon and continue through Thursday.  On the forecast track, the center of Eta is expected to make landfall along the coast of Nicaragua within the Hurricane Warning area early Tuesday.

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The center of Eta is forecast to move farther inland over northern Nicaragua through Wednesday night, and then move across central portions of Honduras on Thursday.

Reports from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 150 mph with higher gusts.  Eta is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Some strengthening is forecast during the next 12 hours, and Eta could become a category 5 hurricane before it makes landfall.

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Weakening will begin after the cyclone moves inland. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft is currently investigating Eta and will provide more data tonight.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • The coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • The northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • The northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • The northern coast of Honduras from west of Punta Patuca westward to Punta Castilla
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Eta is the 28th named Atlantic storm this season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. Hurricane season ends on November 30th.