Hurricane Iota Strengthens to 'Extremely Dangerous' Category 4, Could Hit Category 5 When It Makes Landfall

Hurricane Iota is now expected to make landfall as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm Monday night and could reach Category 5 as it approaches a storm-battered Central America. An advisory from the National Hurricane Center warns that Iota will be a major storm, threatening lives in an area still recovering from Hurricane Eta.

Iota is predicted to have a maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and a potentially fatal storm surge of 10 to 15 feet along with rainfall of 1 to 2 feet, according to the advisory. The storm is currently moving west at about 10 mph about 45 miles off the coast of Isla de Providencia, Colombia, which has been issued a hurricane warning, as has the coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi, as well as the coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Nicaragua border, according to the NHC.

The storm is forecast to hit Providencia Island Monday before eventually heading toward the Nicaraguan and Honduran coasts. Once it hits land, Iota is expected to move west and southwest through Central America, bringing dangerous rainfall and winds. The NHC expects rainfall accumulations throughout the region are expected to reach a high of 30 inches in isolated areas of northeast Nicaragua and northern Honduras. Northern Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Belize are expected to receive between eight and 16 inches, while Costa Rica and Panama could also see about four to eight inches of rain, with an accumulation of 12 inches predicted in some areas.

Iota comes just two weeks after Hurricane Eta hit the same area as a Category 4 storm, causing landslides and flooding in a natural disaster that displaced thousands of people and left many missing or dead. This has been a history-making hurricane season for the Atlantic area, for which Iota will be the 13th hurricane and 30th named storm of 2020 — the most ever as climate change continues to cause more severe weather patterns.

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"The warmer ocean waters that climate change brings are expected to make the stronger storms stronger and make them rapidly intensify more frequently and at a greater rate," Dr. Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and contributor to Yale Climate Connections, told The Guardian Sunday. "These things have already been observed, particularly in the Atlantic, and it’s going to be increasingly so in coming decades."

With the Atlantic hurricane season expected to last until December this year, Masters warned that Iota would likely not be the last. "When a season like 2020 keeps on cranking these things out, it’s going to keep on doing that," he said.