Hurricane Iota exploded Sunday and Monday morning into a Category 4 storm on track to hit nearly the exact region pummeled by Hurricane Eta two weeks ago. Iota’s maximum sustained winds increased 65 mph in the 24-hour period ending at 4:00 a.m. EST Monday — nearly double the rate required to meet the criteria for rapid intensification. It is the record-tying 10th storm this year to undergo rapid intensification, a phenomenon happening more frequently because of climate change. This is projected to be the first time on record two major hurricanes (Cat3 or stronger) made landfall in Nicaragua in the same hurricane season.
“We never imagined that we would become homeless overnight,” Ruben Garcia, a leader in the Indigenous Miskito community in northern Nicaragua and a father of three, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I’ve lost my plantain and rice crops. We’re searching for cattle, the ones we find [are] either dead or injured.”
Experts predict the major hurricanes hitting Central America in such quick succession could lead to a new round of migration from the region and Guatemala has already requested that the United States allow Guatemalan nationals to remain in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status. Iota is expected to make landfall near Puerto Cabezas Monday night with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, a life-threatening storm surge of 10 to 15 feet, and up to two feet of rain. That rain could be cataclysmic for the largely-Indigenous Nicaraguan coast, and on the north coast of Honduras where levees have been destroyed, dams are at capacity, and standing water is already at rooftop level in places. Iota is the record-breaking 30th named storm, and 13th hurricane, of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
(Weather Channel, CNN, AP, Washington Post $, New York Times $, Univision; Migration pressures: Reuters, New York Times $; Honduras: The Guardian, Yale Climate Connections; Nicaragua: Thomson Reuters Foundation, La Prensa NI (es); Climate Signals background: Hurricanes, 2020 Hurricane Season)