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Hurricane Iota Continues To Intensify As It Approaches Central America

Tropical Storm Iota is expected to develop into a major hurricane within the next few days.
Tropical Storm Iota is expected to develop into a major hurricane within the next few days.

Updated Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET

Hurricane Iota is expected to hit Central America on Monday, bringing potentially catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge.

Iota's arrival comes as the region is still recovering from Hurricane Eta, which made landfall earlier this month as a Category 4 storm.

Iota is currently making its way through the Caribbean Sea and is forecast to strengthen further and inundate the area beginning sometime Monday. Iota was moving west-northwest at around 9 mph Sunday morning, with sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It's expected to make landfall as a Category 4 storm, the agency said.

"Iota is expected to intensify and be at or near major hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of Central America," NHC forecaster Daniel Brown said. "Heavy rainfall from Iota will likely lead to life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding across portions of northern Colombia and Central America."

The National Hurricane Center warned that dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall could impact portions of Honduras and Nicaragua, with additional danger in parts of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.

The agency issued a warning saying that Sunday was the last day coastal residents of Honduras and Nicaragua had to prepare for the "extremely dangerous situation" that Iota was creating.

The results could be devastating for a region that is still recovering from Eta, which has already led to the deaths of at least 150 people.

"A lot of people are still on the top of their roofs waiting for the help to come," Annelise Palma of the non-profit Sociedad Biblica de Guatemala told Accuweather.

Colombia's Providencia island could experience hurricane conditions as early as Sunday night. Honduras, northern Nicaragua, eastern Guatemala and southern Belize could see 8 to 16 inches of rain, with some isolated areas getting up to 30 inches. Costa Rica, Panama and northern Colombia could see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated areas getting up to a foot.

Honduras and Nicaragua could see flooding and mudslides compounded given Hurricane Eta's recent impact on the region.

With the formation of Subtropical Storm Theta earlier this week, 2020 has already set a record for the number of named storms in the Atlantic in a single season. Iota is the 30th named storm of the season.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").
Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.