Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Ida inched closer to hurricane strength as it neared Nicaragua's coast early Thursday, with forecasters warning that it could make landfall in a few hours.
A hurricane watch was in effect along the eastern coast of Nicaragua, the National Hurricane Center said. Ida is the Atlantic region's ninth named storm. The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.
At 4 a.m. ET, the center of the storm was about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua, forecasters said.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, the storm is expected to strengthen before making landfall. Ida would become a hurricane if its winds reach 74 mph.
The storm is expected to weaken once it moves inland later Thursday, the center said.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch for Ida along Nicaragua's east coast.
Flash floods and mudslides are expected to be the biggest dangers from Ida. As much as 25 inches of rain could be expected, the center said.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane force winds are possible within 36 hours in the watch area. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm strength winds are expected within 24 hours.