Hurricane Iota is expected to hit Nicaragua as a catastrophic Category 5 storm

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Hurricane Iota quickly strengthened into a Category 5 storm on Monday that is likely to cause catastrophic damage to the same part of Central America already battered by a powerful Hurricane Eta less than two weeks ago.The US National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 260 km / h by mid-afternoon. It was centered about 90 kilometers east-southeast of the Nicaraguan town of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi, and was moving west at 15 km / h.

Iota was lashing the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras with torrential rains and high winds while his eye was still several hours from touching land in northeast Nicaragua.

Authorities warned that the storm would likely affect areas where torrential rains from Eta saturate the ground, leaving them prone to further landslides and flooding, and that the storm surge could reach a shocking shock of 4.5. six meters above normal tides.

Cairo Jarquin, Nicaragua emergency response project manager for Catholic Relief Services, visited Bilwi and small coastal communities on Friday.

This satellite image made available by NOAA shows Hurricane Iota in the North Atlantic Ocean on Monday, November 16, 2020. The storm is expected to make landfall in Central America as a Category 5 hurricane. (NOAA via The Associated Press )

In Wawa Bar, Jarquin said he found “total destruction”. People had worked hard to put the roofs back on their families’ heads, but now Iota was threatening to take what was left.

“What little was left standing could be shaved,” Jarquin said. There were other communities further inland that he couldn’t even reach due to the state of the roads. He said he heard that Bar Wawa was evacuated again on Saturday.

Evacuations are underway from low lying areas of Nicaragua and Honduras near their shared border.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also the first lady, said on Monday that the government had done everything necessary to protect lives, including the evacuation of thousands of people. She added that Taiwan had donated 800 tons of rice to help those affected by the storms.

30th named storm of the season

Iota is the 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. It is also the ninth storm to intensify rapidly this season, a dangerous phenomenon that occurs more often. Such activity has drawn attention to climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.

Iota is stronger, based on central pressure, than Hurricane Katrina of 2005 and is the first storm with a Greek alphabet name to hit Category 5, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at the University of ‘State of Colorado. It also sets the record for the last Category 5 hurricane on record, breaking the record set by Hurricane Cuba on November 8, 1932.

Iota was expected to drop 250 to 500 millimeters of rain in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Belize, with up to 750 millimeters in isolated locations. Costa Rica and Panama could also experience heavy rains and possible flooding, the hurricane center said.

The prospect of more rain heightened the worry of those still homeless after Eta.

Wendy Guadalupe Contreras, who was left homeless after the latest storm hit the area, comforts her son on Monday. Hurricane Iota is expected to cause catastrophic damage to the same part of Central America that was already hit by a powerful Hurricane Eta less than two weeks ago. (Delmer Martinez / The Associated Press)

Grew faster than usual

On Monday, Carmen Isabel Rodriguez Ortez, 48, still lived in a government shelter with more than 250 people in La Lima, Honduras, just outside San Pedro Sula. Devastated by the destruction of Eta, she quickly burst into tears as she contemplated the torrential rains of another storm.

“We are living a real nightmare,” said Rodriguez. The Chamelecon River flooded its Reformada neighborhood at Eta Passage, submerging their homes. “Now they’re announcing more rain and we don’t know what’s going to happen because our houses are completely flooded. ”

Over the past two decades, meteorologists have become more concerned about storms like Iota that are triggering much faster than normal. They created an official threshold for this rapid escalation – a storm gaining 56 km / h wind speed in just 24 hours. Iota doubled it.

Earlier this year, Hannah, Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma, Delta, Zeta and Iota quickly stepped up. Laura and Delta have equaled or set rapid rise records.

Climate and hurricane scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied the effects and found that “a lot of it was related to human-caused climate change.”

The official end of hurricane season is November 30.

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