Hurricane Iota made landfall in northeastern Nicaragua Monday night as a Category 4 storm carrying “catastrophic” winds and powerful storm surge, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm made landfall near Haulover, around 30 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, at 10:40 p.m., the NHC said.
Iota’s maximum sustained winds clocked in at 155 miles per hour, just shy of the 157 mph threshold of a Category 5 hurricane. The storm’s wind speeds classified it as a Category 5 hurricane earlier Monday.
Iota hit an area of Nicaragua just 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall earlier this month, taxing the disaster response resources of a country still in recovery.
The NHC 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.
As of the NHC’s 10 p.m. update, Iota’s hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 175 miles from the center. The storm poses no threat to Florida or the United States.
Iota’s rapid intensification is troubling to meteorologists as the official threshold for rapid intensification within 24 hours is a 35 mph jump in wind speeds. However, Iota saw a surge of strength nearly double the jump of the official threshold. The storm should dissipate sometime Wednesday morning after rapid weakening begins.
Iota was the 13th hurricane of the season, and is the sixth major hurricane, or a storm with wind strength of Category 3 or greater.
Iota is the latest Category 5 hurricane to ever appear in the calendar year, according to Colorado State University meteorologist researcher Phil Klotzbach. Klotzbach also noted Iota would also be the second major hurricane to form in November after Eta. This would mark the first hurricane season on record with two major hurricane formations in November. Iota is also the first Greek letter storm to ever become a Category 5 hurricane.
Iota is so powerful that its central pressure, 918 mb, is lower than 2005′s Hurricane Katrina was at its most powerful before making landfall. The lower the pressure is within the storm, the more powerful the storm will be, NHC hurricane specialist Eric Blake said.
“A little more strengthening is possible today with fairly light shear and warm waters before Iota makes landfall tonight,” Blake said. “Rapid weakening is anticipated over central America, and Iota should dissipate in a couple of days.”
A Hurricane Warning is 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.
Iota’s impact is exacerbated by the fact that the impact area suffered through Category 4 Hurricane Eta just two weeks prior. Iota is believed to make landfall around the same area where Eta has already saturated the soil, loosening it and leaving it prone to new landslides, according to the Associated Press. Over 120 people died earlier this month due mudslides and flash floods caused by Eta.
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.
Staff writers David Harris and Katie Rice and The Associated Press contributed to this report.