TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Iota became the first storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to reach Category 5 strength on Monday as it neared a landfall in Central America, not far from where Hurricane Eta hit less than two weeks ago.
The National Hurricane Center said Monday Iota – the 30th named storm of the year – had reached Category 5 strength with 160 mph maximum sustained winds. According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach from Colorado State University, Iota is the first Atlantic storm named after a letter in the Greek alphabet on record to reach Category 5 intensity.
As of 4 p.m., the system is about 55 miles east-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua and 100 miles east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua-Honduras border. It’s moving west at about 9 mph.
Iota is expected to make landfall in Nicaragua on Monday night, very close to where Hurricane Eta made landfall less than two weeks ago.
“This is a devastating and very catastrophic situation and one we’ll be watching as we move toward landfall overnight tonight,” Max Defender 8 Meteorologist Ian Oliver said.
Iota is forecast to bring catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and torrential rainfall to Central America, according to the NHC.
“A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras,” NHC forecasters said in their most recent advisory. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.”
Iota is expected to dump 10 to 20 inches of rain on Honduras, northern Nicaragua, southeast Guatemala and southern Belize with isolated maximum totals of 30 inches possible.
According to the Associated Press, people living in low-lying areas of Nicaragua and Honduras were being evacuated.
Elsewhere in the tropics, the NHC is tracking a new area of low pressure that could form in the coming days over the central of southwestern Caribbean Sea.
“Environmental conditions should favor some subsequent development and a tropical depression could form by the end of the week while the system moves slowly westward or west-southwestward across the southwestern Caribbean Sea,” an NHC forecaster said in a tropical weather outlook.
The NHC has given the area of low pressure a medium 40 percent chance of formation in the next five days.
TRACKING THE TROPICS:
- 2021 hurricane season forecast: Experts predict above-normal activity in Atlantic basin
- Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name tropical systems, hurricane committee decides
- Earlier start to hurricane season? NOAA debates starting future Atlantic seasons in May
- Key West ends hurricane seasons by burning warning flags
- Tracking the Tropics: Record-breaking 2020 hurricane season drawing to a close