MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Iota is now a category 5 hurricane, becoming the first storm of the 2020 season to do so.
At 10 AM, the eye of Hurricane Iota was located by an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft near latitude 13.5 North, longitude 82.0 West. Iota is moving toward the west near 9 mph, and this general motion is forecast through landfall. After landfall, a westward to west-southwestward motion is expected. On the forecast track, the core of Iota will make landfall within the hurricane warning area in northeastern Nicaragua tonight, and will dissipate over central America by Wednesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph with higher gusts. Iota is forecast to continue to be a catastrophic category 5 hurricane when it approaches Central America tonight, and rapid weakening is expected after landfall. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles. The estimated minimum central pressure is 917 mb based on Air Force reconnaissance data.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Iota is expected to remain a category 5 when it approaches the coast of Nicaragua Monday night. Extreme winds and a life-threatening storm surge are expected along portions of the coast of northeastern Nicaragua, where a hurricane warning is in effect.
The forecast track of Iota is very similar to the path Eta just took two weeks ago as a category four hurricane. Eta and Iota are now in the top five for the strongest hurricanes in November on record.
STORM SURGE: A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds along the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
WIND: Catastrophic wind damage is expected where Iota’s eyewall moves onshore within the Hurricane Warning area in Nicaragua tonight with tropical storm conditions expected by this afternoon. Hurricane conditions are likely occurring on the island of Providencia, with tropical storm conditions expected through this afternoon. Tropical storm conditions are occurring on the island of San Andres, with hurricane conditions possible. Tropical storm conditions are expected in the Tropical Storm Warning area in Nicaragua by late afternoon and in the warning area in Honduras by tonight.
RAINFALL: Iota is expected to produce the following rainfall accumulations through Thursday: Honduras, northern Nicaragua, southeast Guatemala and southern Belize: 10 to 20 inches. Isolated maximum totals of 30 inches will be possible, especially from northeast Nicaragua into northern Honduras. El Salvador and Panama: 4 to 8 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches. This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain. Southern Nicaragua and Costa Rica: 3 to 5 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 10 inches.