- Iota is “forecast to bring catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and torrential rainfall to Central America.”
- Iota is the first Category 5 hurricane of the season and the strongest storm so late in the calendar year ever recorded.
- The hurricane is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane Iota made landfall late Monday night as a Category 4 storm along the coast of northeastern Nicaragua, about 15 miles south of Hurricane Eta’s landfall earlier this month.
The “extremely dangerous” hurricane is forecast to bring “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides across portions of Central America,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Iota reached Category 5 status over the western Caribbean as it approached Nicaragua and Honduras. The storm made landfall at 10:40 p.m. EST near the town of Haulover, about 30 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, about 2 mph shy of Category 5.
Iota was the first Category 5 hurricane of the season and the strongest hurricane this late in the calendar year ever recorded, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras.
The Hurricane Center said: “This is a catastrophic situation unfolding for northeastern Nicaragua with an extreme storm surge of 15-20 feet forecast along with destructive winds and potentially 30 inches of rainfall. It is exacerbated by the fact that it should make landfall in almost the exact same location that category 4 Hurricane Eta did about two weeks ago.”
This is only the second time in history that Nicaragua has been hit by two hurricanes in one season, AccuWeather said.
Evacuations were being conducted from low-lying areas in Nicaragua and Honduras near their shared border, which appeared to be Iota’s likely landfall. Winds and rain were already being felt on the Nicaraguan coast Sunday night.
All of Honduras was on high alert, with compulsory evacuations that began before the weekend. By Sunday evening, 63,500 people were reported to be in 379 shelters just in the northern coastal region.
Nicaraguan officials said that by late Sunday afternoon about 1,500 people, nearly half of them children, had been evacuated from low-lying areas in the country’s northeast, including all the inhabitants of Cayo Misquitos. Authorities said 83,000 people in that region were in danger.
Eta already wreaked havoc. It hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane, killing at least 120 people as torrential rains caused flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico. Then it meandered across Cuba, the Florida Keys and around the Gulf of Mexico before slogging ashore again near Cedar Key, Florida, and dashing across Florida and the Carolinas.
Iota was forecast to drop 8 to 16 inches of rain in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Belize, with as much as 30 inches in isolated spots. Costa Rica and Panama could also experience heavy rain and possible flooding, the hurricane center said.
Iota is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
The official end of hurricane season is Nov. 30.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
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