Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hurricane Iota Is in Terrifying, Unprecedented Territory as It Approaches Central America

Unprecedented Hurricane Iota. Gif: NOAA/CIRA

Brian Kahn

For the second time in two weeks, Central America is facing down a ferocious storm. Hurricane Iota exploded over the weekend and is now a Category 5 monster, setting a record for the latest Category 5 storm on record. To make matters worse, it’s set to make landfall in almost the exact same location in Nicaragua that Category 4 Hurricane Eta hit 13 days ago.

The forecast for Hurricane Iota is as dire as can be. The storm is currently packing winds of 160 mph (258 kph), making it the second-strongest November storm to form in 170 years of records. Iota will bring up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) of storm surge and drop up to 30 inches (762 millimeters) of rainfall in areas that were left absolutely battered by Eta, which left at least 50 dead and 2.5 million impacted. Iota may strengthen even further before landfall, though that’s likely to be more of an academic distinction given how catastrophic the storm is.

Hurricane Iota will spend marginally less time stalled over the region than Hurricane Eta and take a different path. But places where the two storms’ paths do overlap will deal with compound effects, particularly related to rainfall. Eta brought even more torrential rain than Iota is forecast to bring, but 13 days is nowhere near enough time for soil to dry out. Iota’s rain will be falling on ground that’s like a sponge that’s been soaking in the sink and can’t hold any more water. That will result in heavy runoff and create a high risk for more flash floods and landslides.  Read more >>