Tropical Storm Omar forms as Nana approaches Central America

Forecast cone for Tropical Storm Nana. (WPLG)

MIAMI – Tropical Storm Omar formed off the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Nana approached the coast of Central America, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

Forecasters predict Nana will strengthen to a hurricane by the time it makes landfall Thursday and said people in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula should closely monitor the storm's progress. Strong winds, a dangerous storm surge and very heavy rainfall causing flash flooding are likely.

An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft crew flew into Nana as it took shape south of Jamaica, recording maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts. Nana was moving west at 18 mph (30 kph) on a path that could damage Central America on Wednesday and Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center later said the entire coast of Belize had been placed under a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch. At 8 p.m. EDT, Nana's center was located about 535 miles (865 kilometers) east of Belize City and about 370 miles (600 kilometers) east-northeast of Limon, Honduras.

Nana and Omar are the earliest 14th and 15th named storms on record, beating the 2005 arrivals of Nate on Sept. 6 and Ophelia on Sept. 7, according to Colorado State University professor Phil Klotzbach.

The National Hurricane Center expects Tropical Storm Omar to be short-lived. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 km/h) Tuesday evening, with little change expected overnight. Omar was 225 miles (365 kilometers) east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving east-northeast at 15 mph (24 kph). Forecasters predicted it will weaken Wednesday night.