Hurricane Iota has gained speed and is now a 160 mph Category 5 storm just hours away from striking nearly the exact same part of Central America that Category 4 Hurricane Eta struck two weeks ago, according to an advisory Monday morning from the National Hurricane Center.
In 170 years of record keeping, Iota is just the second Category 5 hurricane on record during the month of November. The last one was the Cuba Hurricane of 1932.
While meteorologists hustled to put the rarity of Iota’s strength for the month of November into perspective, it became clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe was likely coming for Nicaragua and Honduras.
These locations are still reeling after Hurricane Eta made landfall Nov. 3 as a Category 4 hurricane, causing loss of life and extreme destruction of property.
Iota is expected to make landfall Monday night as a Category 5 hurricane on the Nicaraguan coast.
The effects expected from hurricane Iota won’t just be life-threatening, but in many cases also unsurvivable for anyone without proper shelter.
The storm surge is expected to be up to 15-20 feet along the immediate coastlines. Rainfall of up to 30 inches will result in deadly flash flooding, landslides, mudslides and river flooding.
The winds will be catastrophic with wind gusts approaching 200 mph in some locations.
All of this combined will lead to parts of the region being uninhabitable for weeks, if not months.
Over the weekend, Iota exploded into a powerful hurricane when it became the 10th tropical cyclone this season to undergo rapid intensification. In just six hours, it strengthened 40 mph. The definition of rapid intensification is an increase of 35 mph in 24 hours.
This is unprecedented for November. While extraordinary, ferocious and gut-wrenching are all words that would be used for a Category 5 hitting anywhere, the fact that it is mid-November makes Iota’s evolution unparalleled.
In fact, the second half of this record-shattering season has featured more strong hurricanes. According to Phil Klotzbach, “The first 24 named storms of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produced 2 major hurricanes (Laura and Teddy). The last 6 named storms have produced 4 major hurricanes (Delta, Epsilon, Eta and Iota).”
In other words, the worst of this season has occurred after the months of August and September, which are considered the climatological peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Then again, nothing about this season has been normal with 30 named storms which broke the previous record of 28 storms set in 2005.
Iota reaching Category 5 status makes 2020 the fifth year in a row to have a Category 5 hurricane, which is a new record.
Climate change can be attributed to producing more rapidly intensifying hurricanes like Iota (and Laura, Sally and Eta) that strengthen right up to landfall. Warming waters over time will not only lead to stronger hurricanes, but also ones that will last later into the season.