Hurricane Iota is rapidly intensifying into Category 4 as it heads inland in Central America, where it will bring potentially catastrophic rainfall, floods, landslides, storms and harmful winds. Iota will be the second major hurricane in two weeks to hit the region.
The maximum sustained wind in Iota increased from 85 mph to 155 mph within 24 hours, ending at 7 a.m. EST on Monday. This easily meets the criteria for a rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, which is an increase in maximum sustained winds of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less.
Iota is now the 10th storm of the 2020 season to meet the criterion of rapid intensification. This links 1995 to the fastest intensifiers in each season since 1979, according to Tomer Burg, Ph.D. a student at the University of Oklahoma.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras, where hurricane conditions are expected by Monday. Tropical storm warnings extend north and south of hurricane warnings on both sides.
A tropical storm warning and hurricane clock are also in effect for the island of San Andres in Colombia.
Iota is expected to be generally west-upward as the land moves clockwise around a medium-level high-pressure system that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the western Atlantic.
This way, Iota has to land late Monday night until early Tuesday morning off the coast of northern Nicaragua, usually in the same area as Hurricane Eta made its Category 4 land on November 3rd.
Additional amplification is possible, as Iota tracks a favorable environment that includes very deep, warm water, favorable winds from the upper level, and a lack of dry air. Iota may be close to category 5 for a while on Monday as it heads for land.
This would be the first time we have registered two major hurricanes – category 3 or stronger – the drought in Nicaragua in the same hurricane season, much less in just two weeks. The NOAA hurricane database documents only seven such Category 3 Plus droughts in Nicaragua from the mid-19th century to 2019.
Again potentially catastrophic impacts
Once again, floods are expected to be one of the biggest dangers for Central America, including areas devastated by heavy rains earlier this month.
The effects of the Eta floods have killed at least 120 in Central America and southern Mexico, according to the latest report by The Associated Press. Dozens of people are still missing, the AP said. Honduras was one of the areas hardest hit by the Eta floods, and any additional rain could worsen conditions.
The National Hurricane Center released the following rainfall forecasts by Friday:
-Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Belize can reach 8 to 16 inches, with isolated amounts of 20 to 30 inches. Areas from northeastern Nicaragua to northern Honduras can see the heaviest amounts.
-Costa Rica and Panama can expect 4 to 8 inches, with local amounts up to 12 inches
-El Salvador and southern Nicaragua can expect 3 to 5 inches, with localized total values up to 10 inches
These rains will lead to dangerous, life-threatening lightning floods, floods of rivers and landslides.
According to NOAA meteorologist Alex Lamers, the total rainfall from Eta and Iota may correspond to the average annual rainfall in parts of Honduras.
A life-threatening, potentially catastrophic storm 10 to 15 feet above normal tidal levels is expected north of where Iota makes land, along the northern coast of Nicaragua and the coast of eastern Honduras.
Destructive, crashing waves will appear at the top of the wave.
Potentially catastrophic Category 4 winds with intensity can be expected in Iota’s eye walls, as this leads to drought late Monday night until early Tuesday morning in northeastern Nicaragua or extreme southeastern Honduras.
This will lead to serious structural damage, especially to poorly constructed structures, and widespread power outages in northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras by Tuesday morning.
As mentioned earlier, hurricane conditions are expected by late Monday in the hurricane warning area in northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras.
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