Iota will also be the second major hurricane to make landfall in the same region in less than two weeks. Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on November 3 and Iota is forecast to make landfall as a Category 4 with sustained winds of at least 130 mph late Monday night or early Tuesday.
Iota — the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season — is expected to continue heading west and make landfall somewhere in Central America, potentially near the Honduras-Nicaragua border by late Monday or early Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said.
Nicaragua has issued a hurricane warning from Sandy Bay Sirpi to the border with Honduras, and Honduras issued a hurricane warning from from the border of Nicaragua to Punta Patuca.
Parts of those two countries could receive torrential rain totals of 2 to 3 feet, along with a life-threatening storm surge of 9 to 13 feet.
Besides delivering damaging winds, Iota could drop 8 to 16 inches of rain on Honduras, northern Nicaragua, eastern Guatemala and southern Belize through Thursday, the NHC said — unwelcome news for a region pummeled by Hurricane Eta in early November.
Costa Rica, Panama and northern Colombia could receive 4 to 8 inches of rain through Thursday, while El Salvador and southern Nicaragua could get 2 to 4 inches in the same period, the NHC said.
Colombia’s government has issued a hurricane warning for the island of Providencia and the island of San Andres is under both a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning.
“This rainfall (from Iota) would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the NHC said.
Central America devastated by Hurricane Eta
Even before the storm, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala had poor public health systems that were struggling against Covid-19.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Matt Rivers, Natalie Gallón and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.