Hurricane Iota forecast to become a dangerous Category 4 storm
Iota became the 13th hurricane of the Atlantic season early Sunday, threatening to bring another dangerous system to Nicaragua and Honduras — countries recently clobbered by the Category 4 Hurricane Eta.
Iota is forecast to be a Category 3 hurricane by early Monday and a Category 4 by early Tuesday, with winds of 130 mph as it approaches the coast of northern Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras, forecasters said.
The storm is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge of 9 to 13 feet along the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. Hurricane and storm-surge warnings were in effect Sunday in both countries.
Flooding and rains of 8 to 16 inches — with isolated totals of 30 inches — are forecast in Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Guatemala, and southern Belize, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. This same region was recently hit with deadly floods brought by Eta.
Iota was already a record-breaking system, as the 30th named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
The hurricane center said Sunday morning that Iota had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. But forecasters said Iota would rapidly strengthen and was expected to be a major hurricane by the time it reaches Central America.
Iota was centered about 240 miles east of Isla de Providencia, Colombia, Sunday morning and was moving west-northwest at 6 mph. Forecasters said Iota was expected to pass or cross over Providencia sometime Monday, then approach the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday evening.
The system was forecast to bring up to 30 inches of rain from northeast Nicaragua into northern Honduras. Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador could also experience heavy rain and possible flooding, the hurricane center said.
Iota threatened to wreak more havoc in a region where people are still grappling with the aftermath of Eta. That system hit Nicaragua just over a week ago as a Category 4 hurricane, killing at least 120 people as torrential rains brought flash floods and landslides to 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, Fla., and dashing across Florida and the Carolinas.
Eta was the 28th named storm of this year’s hurricane season, tying the 2005 record. Theta, the 29th, was weakening Sunday over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean and was expected to become a remnant low, forecasters said.
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