Hurricane Otto

Security Message for U.S. Citizens
November 24, 2016

The U.S. Embassy alerts U.S. citizens that Tropical Storm (TS) Otto is currently forecast to become a hurricane on Thursday, November 24, 2016and is expected to make landfall near Bluefields, Nicaragua on the same day.  TS Otto may result in heavy rains, strong winds, flooding, and mudslides.  A National Hurricane Center (NHC) advisory states that there is a Hurricane Warning in effect for Bluefields to Limon in Costa Rica, and that a Hurricane Watch and a Tropical Storm Warning are in effect for areas north of Bluefields reaching to Sandy Bay Sirpi.   There is also a Tropical Storm Warning for the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua stretching from the Costa Rica border to Puerto Sandino.

The U.S. Embassy will be closed on Thursday, November 24 for the Thanksgiving holiday and on Friday, November 25 in light of the ongoing weather conditions and risk of flooding.  Emergency consular services for U.S. citizens continue to be available.  However, the U.S. Embassy’s ability to respond to U.S. citizen emergencies may be impacted by TS Otto.  U.S. citizens with immediate emergencies should contact local Nicaraguan authorities.  The Nicaraguan government conducted some evacuations from the Autonomous Region of the Southern Caribbean (RACS by its initials in Spanish) and Río San Juan on November 23, and may conduct additional evacuations.

Nicaragua’s national system for the prevention, mitigation, and attention to disasters (SINAPRED by its initials in Spanish) issued a red alert on November 22, 2016 because of the high probability that TS Otto could affect populations in the low-lying areas of municipalities in the RACS, which includes Bluefields, Corn Island, and Little Corn Island; and the departments of Central Zelaya and Río San Juan.  In its November 22 release, SINAPRD announced a red alert for RACCS, Chontales and Rio San Juan with the rest of the country on yellow alert.  SINAPRED stated that the anticipated trajectory of the storm has a high likelihood of affecting populations in the low-lying areas of the RACS, Chontales, Central Zelaya, and Río San Juan.  Expect extremely high winds, dangerous storm tides, heavy rainfall, and possible flooding to occur in these areas.   SINAPRED posts updated information about their public announcements related to this storm and other phenomena on its website: http://www.sinapred.gob.ni/index.php/es/.

Public schools in Nicaragua will be closed from Thursday, November 24 through Sunday, November 27.  Schools are being readied to serve as shelters for people in affected areas.

NHC reports sustained winds near 70 mph (110 km/h) with higher gusts in its most recent tracking report on TS Otto (from 1:00 p.m. EST).  NHC expects rainfall accumulations of 15 to 20 inches in some parts of southern Nicaragua, which will likely result in flash floods and mud slides.  Swells generated by Otto are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions over the next several days along the coasts of Nicaragua.  Updated information from NHC on Tropical Storm Otto is available at www.nhc.noaa.gov<http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/>.

All U.S. citizens living in or traveling to the area should monitor local weather reports, follow directions from local officials, and take other appropriate actions as needed.  Preparations to protect life and property in any storm or weather-related event should be considered, such as checking food and potable water, prescription medicine, gasoline, and generator diesel fuel supplies; securing any items that could become projectiles in high winds; and keeping families and friends informed of safety and whereabouts.  U.S. citizens should carry their travel documents, including U.S. passports, with them at all times or secure them in a waterproof location.  If you must travel during this time in the affected areas, please take reasonable precautions such as avoiding swiftly moving water.  Drivers should remain vigilant for possible landslides.  Due to the potential severity of the storm, power outages are a possibility, and communications systems, including cell phones, may be affected in certain areas.  U.S. citizens may need to shelter in place and should be prepared with sufficient provisions for such a circumstance.

For further information about security in Nicaragua:

  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler-Enrollment Program<https://step.state.gov/step/> (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).