Hurricane Iota strengthens as it heads towards Central America

Darnell Taylor
November 16, 2020

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica says Hurricane Iota, now located across the southwestern Caribbean Sea, has induced a trough across the island.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects Iota to rapidly strengthen and possibly reach Category 4 with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour.

Iota is expected to make landfall sometime Monday night in northeastern Nicaragua.

A hurricane hunter aircraft has found that the storm's maximum sustained winds have increased to near 155 miles per hour with higher gusts, making it a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

"Rapid strengthening is expected during the next 24 hours, and Iota is forecast to be an extremely unsafe category 4 hurricane when it approaches Central America", the National Hurricane Center said in a 7 p.m. Sunday public advisory.

Hurricane Iota is located about 100 miles east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaraguan/Honduran border and is moving to the west at 9 mph (15 km/h).

If the forecast holds, Iota would be "only (the) 2nd Atlantic hurricane to reach Category 4 intensity this late in the calendar year on record", according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.

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Crop damage is likely in Nicaragua and Honduras as well as some adjacent countries due to severe flooding. That system hit Nicaragua just over a week ago 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. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

Authorities have ordered people to leave the area, but many are refusing, fearing Covid-19.

Eta already wreaked havoc.

In the Nicaraguan coastal city of Bilwi, residents were desperately trying to secure the roofs of flimsy wooden homes with the same zinc sheets ripped off by Eta. 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 is expected to produce heavy rainfall across southern Belize from 10 to 20 inches. Theta, the 29th, was far out in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, and became a remnant low Sunday.

WX4NHC at the NHC will be on the air starting on Monday, November 16, at 1700 UTC, monitoring the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 and 7.268 MHz, as well as the VoIP Hurricane Net, Winlink, APRS, and other modes listed on the station's website.

Iota is forecast to make landfall in Central America, likely in Nicaragua, as a Major Hurricane and Iota would be the second major hurricane to form this November.

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