The National Meteorological Institute (IMN) confirmed that Otto has downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm on Wednesday morning prompted by a slight variation in its wind speed from 120 to 110 kilometers per hour (75-68 mph).
IMN Director Juan Carlos Fallas said at a press conference in Casa Presidencial that the category change is a technical matter, and called on the population to remain alert for the arrival of Otto.
“The forecast of a significant impact remains in place. The wide variability of this weather phenomenon is forcing us to keep monitoring any sudden changes,” Fallas said.
President Luis Guillermo Solís said they will maintain the Red Emergency Alert and will continue evacuating people and preparing for Otto’s arrival.
At around noon, Otto maintained winds of up to 110 kilometers per hour, but its intensity is expected to rise again and become a hurricane in the next hours, IMN forecasts state.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed the variation in the speed of the now Tropical Storm Otto.
The NHC at 10 a.m. reported that the center of Otto was moving toward the west-northwest. The agency forecasts that a turn toward the west with an increase in forward speed is expected tonight and Thursday.
“Otto is forecast to become a hurricane again and move onshore on Thursday, before weakening over Central America after landfall,” says the NHC report.
Track Hurricane Otto’s path in real time:
National Police Director Juan José Andrade said at the press conference that some 3,600 people already left their homes in Northern and Caribbean areas where the CNE issued a Red Alert.
National Emergency Commission (CNE) director Iván Brenes said that as of Wednesday noon, there are 1,043 evacuees at 14 shelters. The CNE is planning to evacuate some 1,000 more from northern communities near the border with Nicaragua.
The CNE has received damage reports of 1,183 houses, some of them completely destroyed by overflowing rivers.
The Public Works and Transport Ministry reported damage on 32 roads. One bridge and two levees collapsed, five aqueducts are broken and there are two communities without electricity.
There are 161 communities with some type of damage caused by Otto. Of these, 99 are in the Southern Pacific, 39 in the Caribbean region, 10 in the Northern Zone, and 13 in the Central Valley.
A total of 46 communities in the Southern Pacific area are isolated in the cantons of Corredores, Golfito and Osa due to overflowing rivers and landslides.
Some of them are indigenous communities where harsh weather conditions are preventing emergency agencies to access the area, the CNE noted.
The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) on Wednesday launched an information hotline to field inquiries from tourists and tourism businesses.
Interested people can call 800-TURISMO (800-8874766), where operators will offer information about the operation of flights at Juan Santamaría International Airport, Daniel Oduber International Airport and the Airlines Association, as well as tourism chambers and associations. ICT confirmed that bilingual (English-Spanish) staff is available.
ICT officials asked the tourism sector to remain alert and abide by CNE’s recommendations and evacuation orders with the aim of safeguarding the integrity of all tourists.