PANAMA CITY (AP) — The Latest on tropical weather in the Caribbean (all times local):
Forecasters say Hurricane Otto has strengthened slightly as it moves west toward Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Otto is a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140kph) and is moving west at 9 mph (15kph). On Wednesday night, the storm was 100 miles (160 kilometers) north-northeast of Limon, Costa Rica, and 120 miles (195 kilometers east-southeast) of Bluefields, Nicaragua.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Limon to Bluefields. Forecasters say the center of Otto is expected to make landfall in that warning area sometime Thursday and reach the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica sometime early Friday.
Forecasters say Otto has regained hurricane strength in the Caribbean as it churns closer to Central America.
Otto had fluctuated between tropical storm and hurricane status earlier this week. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Otto now has hurricane-force winds of 75 mph (110 kph) as it continues toward an expected landfall later this week.
As of 7 p.m. EST Wednesday, Otto was centered about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northeast of Limon, Costa Rica — or about 180 miles (285 kilometers) east-southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Limon, Costa Rica, to Bluefields, Nicaragua. Forecasters say the center of Otto is expected to make landfall in that warning area sometime Thursday and reach the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica sometime early Friday.
An unusually Tropical Storm Otto swirled over the Caribbean just off Central America on Wednesday heading toward a possible landfall as a hurricane in Costa Rica, which hasn't seen such a storm since reliable record-keeping began in 1851.
Heavy rains from the storm were blamed for three deaths in Panama, and officials in Costa Rica ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from its Caribbean coast.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the westward-moving storm had weakened slightly overnight down to tropical storm status, with winds of 70 mph (110 kph). But it said the storm would likely recover hurricane force and make landfall Thursday in the border region of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Early Wednesday, the hurricane had top sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph) and was moving westward at 5 mph (7 kph), the U.S. hurricane center said. Otto was centered about 235 miles (375 kilometers) east-northeast of Limon, Costa Rica.