Areas still recovering from Hurricane Eta are now keeping an eye on what is now Hurricane Iota, which could stir up trouble early this week.
Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 (sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph) hurricane on the Saffir Simpson Wind Scale on Nov. 3, in Nicaragua, which was among the top five strongest storms to ever hit the nation. Eta also carved a path of destruction through Honduras and Guatemala, unleashing feet of rain, tremendous flooding, and killing more than 100.
Central America is still facing a humanitarian crisis following Eta’s deadly blow. Millions are enduring dangerous conditions in the storm’s wake — with concerns over waterborne diseases and COVID-19 complicating recovery. And the situation could become even more dire as Iota creeps toward the coast.
“I am greatly concerned we may soon have another major disaster on our hands in Central America if this Caribbean tropical system pans out like we suspect,” AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
Early Sunday morning, Iota was found to have strengthened into the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). As of 7 a.m. EST, Iota was a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with sustained winds of 85 mph. Iota continued to inch westward at 6 mph with its center located about 380 miles east of Cabo Gracias on the Nicaragua-Honduras border.
As the weekend comes to a close, Iota is forecast to pick up some forward speed and continue to move westward, or even northwestward toward the border of Honduras and Nicaragua. Along the way, heavy rainfall will inundate northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela, as well as southern Jamaica.
In addition to widespread rainfall, Iota will be moving through an area of low wind shear and warm water — around 84 degrees Fahrenheit — in the western Caribbean Sea, encouraging the hurricane to strengthen into an even more powerful hurricane.
“Exactly how long Iota is able to to hang out in that favorable environment will ultimately determine how long it could be a major (Category 3 or higher) hurricane,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
The exact track it takes, the strength and forward speed as it plows onshore in Central America will determine how grim the situation will become.
“It is possible that Iota could track north of Honduras, allowing the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Eta to be spared. But it is even more likely that Honduras and Nicaragua take a direct hit from Iota,” warned Miller.
Should Iota make landfall in Nicaragua as a hurricane, it would be only the second time in history the country would be hit by two hurricanes in one season. The last time it occurred was in 1971, when Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Edith hit Nicaragua.
In Central America, building seas will be the first impact, coming on Sunday evening. Next would be the outer bands…