Hurricane Iota tears through Nicaragua, weakens to Category 1

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Hurricane Iota fell to Category 1 strength after tearing into Nicaragua Monday night with Category 4 gusts, bringing with it dangerous flood waters and catastrophic winds to an already storm-beaten area. The National Hurricane Center is tracking Iota’s progress while simultaneously monitoring a low pressure system with odds of becoming the 31st named system of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

Iota began terrorizing Nicaragua with its dangerous winds just 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall two weeks earlier. Eta was responsible for the loss of 120 lives many of whom died in mudslides and flash flooding.

Iota’s dangerous forces are expected to exacerbate the situation where dirt and mud has already been loosened up by Eta.

Iota made landfall with maximum sustained winds just under Category 5 status at 155 mph. Although the storm was briefly clocking winds at 160 mph.

Most recently, Iota’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 85 mph while over Central America, according to the NHC’s 7 a.m. update. The storm is 15 miles west-northwest of El Pia, Nicaragua and is moving west at a slow pace of 9 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. Iota is expected to keep on a weakening trend and should dissipate over Central America sometime Wednesday.

For now, Hurricane Warning remains in effect for the coast of Nicaragua, from its border with Honduras to Sandy Bay Sirpi; and the coast of northeastern Honduras from Punta Patuca to its border with Nicaragua. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Providencia; San Andrés; the coast of Nicaragua, from south of Sandy Bay Sirpi to Bluefields; and the northern coast of Honduras from west of Punta Patuca to the Guatemala/Honduras border, including the Bay Islands.

Forecasters are predicting Iota to bring life-threatening storm surge of as much as 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels to the impact area, where it is also thought to incur between 8 to 16 inches of rain with isolated totals of 20 to 30 inches being possible from northeast Nicaragua into northern Honduras.

Evacuations were carried out over the weekend in low-lying areas in Nicaragua and Honduras near their shared border, according to the Associated Press.

Nicaraguan Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo indicated that the government had done everything necessary to protect the lives of the inhabitants, including the evacuation of thousands of people, AP reported. He also said that Taiwan had donated 800 tons of rice to help those affected by the storms.

Meanwhile, the NHC is monitoring another system which could prove to be the 31st named system of the 2020 year.

A low pressure area could form in the next few days in the southwestern Caribbean where Iota is located currently.

Environmental conditions are favorable for it to become a tropical depression by the end of the week as it moves west.

The system has a 40% chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next five days. If it does so, it will receive the Greek letter Kappa as its name.

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.


©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Maynor Valenzuela/Getty Images North America/TNS
Maynor Valenzuela/Getty Images North America/TNS