Those in the region have started to withstand heavy rains from the storm, with Honduras and Nicaragua expecting maximum totals of 30 inches of rain through Thursday, while El Salvador in Panama can expect 6 to 10, with isolated maximums of 15 inches. River and flash flooding could soon follow with a dangerous storm surge that is likely to cause water levels to rise 10 to 15 feet, the National Hurricane Center said in an hour-long alert.
The storm surge forecast along the Nicaraguan and Honduran coasts will be accompanied by “big, destructive waves”, as well as swells that cause “potentially fatal surf and tear conditions,” the advisory said.
Colombian islands feel the first impacts
Before reaching Nicaragua, the hurricane became the first of its force to strike the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia in recorded history, Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Monday.
San Andres and Providencia have been part of Colombia for centuries but are geographically closer to Central America than to the Colombian mainland.
Duque said Monday that at least one person had died in Providencia and that 90% of the island’s infrastructure had been affected by Iota. The local airport is also inoperable due to the debris, Duque said.
“This is the first time that a Category 5 hurricane has hit our territory since records began,” Duque said at a national press conference from the Colombian capital of Bogota. “We are facing a problem with characteristics never seen before by our country. ”
A Navy boat was due to leave Cartagena on Monday evening to travel to Providencia with supplies, Duque said.
Central America still recovering from Eta
Iota will be the second major hurricane to hit the region in as many weeks. On November 3, Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 storm, causing landslides and flooding that displaced thousands of people and left dozens dead or missing.
This is the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which has left its mark as a historic season bringing 30 named storms – the most ever seen. This is the latest in the year that there has been a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin, according to the hurricane center.
More than 3.6 million people in Central America have been affected by the storm to varying degrees, the Red Cross said earlier this week.
Although the extent of Eta’s damage will not be known for some time, the powerful storm, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, can have effects that last for years.
The storm loomed over Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala for days, with heavy rains creating floods and landslides that swept entire communities across the map.
Dozens of people in the remote Guatemalan village of San Cristobal are still unaccounted for after a landslide that swept through last week, leaving mud 15 meters deep in places.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Gene Norman and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.