Iota was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane on Monday, the first hurricane to reach such strength in a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season.
It was expected to make landfall by Monday night, bringing “catastrophic winds, life-threatening storms, and torrential rain” to Central America, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The region is still suffering from Hurricane ETA, which struck less than two weeks ago. Aid workers are still struggling to reach communities cut short by bridges, destroyed by bridges, fallen trees and flooded roads.
On Monday, Hurricane Iota was about 80 miles southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the border of Nicaragua and Honduras, with maximum winds reaching 160 miles per hour, the Hurricane Center reported. 1 noon a consultant. The center said the storm was moving west at 9 mph and that “this general movement is expected through land.”
The hurricane warning was in effect in several cities along the coast of the two countries, with the storm expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain in some areas through Friday. Heavy rains may lead to flash floods and mudslides at high elevations, The center said.
Iota is also expected to raise water levels “by 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels” along the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. It is expected that the rise will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
Dennis Felten, a spokesperson and meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said the impact of IOTA would be felt “before the center makes landfall.”
Already, torrential rains have been seen in Colombia.
Central American leaders point the finger at climate change.
Honduran and Guatemalan leaders on Monday called for increased international funding to combat the effects of climate change and aid their efforts to recover amid recent natural disasters.
“Central America is not the product of this climate change situation,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said at a press conference. “Instead, we are hardest hit.”
Mr. Orlando called on the United Nations to declare Central America the region worldwide most affected by climate change. Honduras and Guatemala were hit by Hurricane ETA earlier this month, and both countries are expected to be hit hard by Hurricane Iota.
“Hunger, poverty and devastation did not wait many years,” said Alejandro Giamatti, the Guatemalan leader. “If we don’t want to see hordes from Central America looking to go to countries with a better quality of life, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America.”
Girding for the worst in Guatemala
Blockaded Guatemala, struck by an epidemic and a once-in-a-lifetime economic recession, was struggling to prepare for its second hurricane in less than two weeks.
The nation is still reeling from the first hurricane, Hurricane ETA, which left hundreds of towns underwater and displaced nearly 200,000. Aid groups said entire villages lost access to drinking water, food and medicine.
“If Iota strikes the force you expect, it will be chaos,” said Francisco Moss, a retired Guatemalan army general coordinating the rescue effort. “I don’t think we are beginning to understand the impact of this crisis in terms of the humanitarian catastrophe.”
Mr. Moss said that the government was not even able to enter about 100 villages badly affected by ETA, and noted that about a quarter of those were living in critical conditions “because of lack of food, because of hunger, thirst and disease.”
Now, as Hurricane Iota approaches, rescue teams are rushing to reach the cities stranded by Hurricane Etta.
“We are racing against the storm to get supplies for these people, because now they can’t leave, and they have nowhere to go,” said Sophia Letona, director of Antigua to the Rescue, a local aid group that distributed food and global supplies. A medicine for hundreds of people displaced by ETA. They left their homes in the middle of the night, left everything, soaked, and picked up their children. And now another is coming. “
Ms. Letona said her group had set up makeshift clinics in remote areas as people sought shelter from ETA, and found disease prevalent among those who had fled their homes, including gastritis, fungal infections and mosquito bites. Some have said they experience headaches, coughing, and flu-like symptoms – all possible signs of the coronavirus.
Hurricanes may ease the spread of the virus as people congregate in shelters and interact for the first time with aid workers and others from outside their isolated villages. Aid workers said the government has provided masks in some shelters, but many others have not offered any form of protection from the virus.
“More than a risk, there will definitely be some form of massive contagion in the rural shelters,” said Ms. Letona.
The region is barely starting to recover from Hurricane ETA.
The situation was very familiar to Marina Rodriguez, a 47-year-old Nicaraguan woman.
Ms Rodriguez said that less than two weeks ago Hurricane ETA washed away her home in Puerto Cabezas, on the coast. On Sunday, her children were helping her build a makeshift shelter. But now Hurricane Iota was intensifying and slowly approaching the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras.
For Lady Rodríguez and many other exhausted residents of the area, it appears that there will be no delay.
“I fear sea level rise,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “You can see the water coming up every minute, so I think we will have to evacuate.”
Those in the path of the storm, Which turned into a hurricane on SundayThey weren’t the only ones who compared it to Hurricane ETA.
“It’s strange that the wind speeds are similar and in the same area that ETA struck,” said Mr Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center.
Meteorologists have warned that Hurricane Iota could compound the devastation caused by Hurricane ETA, which killed at least 140 people across Central America. In Guatemala, rescuers feared that more than 100 people would be killed in the village of Coija after a storm cut off part of a slope.
Hurricane ETA destroyed tens of thousands of homes in Guatemala, destroyed bridges and roads, and left thousands homeless.
Now, Guatemalans are preparing for the worst.
“Utahs will have devastating effects, no matter their strength, because of the soil saturation,” said Miriam Aguilar, who runs the office of Mercy Corps, a global aid group in Guatemala. “Our geography and topography make these soils more vulnerable to mudslides due to rain and water saturation.”
Dozens of indigenous communities were evacuated throughout the weekend in Nicaragua and Honduras. In Puerto Cabezas, families were asleep in the rubble left by the previous hurricane.
Saddam Vinicius, a father of three, decided to stay with his family in their home near the coast. He did his best to secure the structure with ropes, which he used in his work as a fisherman.
“I am afraid to lose my roof,” said Mr. Vinicius.
It was the most active hurricane season ever.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which is due to end on November 30, saw 30 specific storms, 13 of which were hurricanes. Six of these tornadoes were considered “large” – ETA and Iota among them – meaning they were Category 3 or higher.
After meteorologists exhausted the list of 21 nouns made for each hurricane season, they had to resort to the Greek alphabet to name the new systems that continued to form. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, when there were 28 storms strong enough to be named.
Scientists have found that climate change affects how hurricanes form and strengthen them, and that rising ocean temperatures associated with global warming can cause storms to weaken more slowly and remain devastating for longer.
In a recent study, scientists found that 50 years ago, a typical storm would have lost more than three-quarters of its intensity in the first 24 hours.
Now you only lose about half.
Alphonso Flores Bermudez, Johnny Diaz, Natalie Ketrov, Oscar Lopez, Derek Bresson Taylor, Neil Vigdor, Alison Waller, contributed to reporting.