A satellite image shows Hurricane Iota approaching Central America. RAMMB/CIRA/AFP via Getty Images
An “extremely dangerous” Category 4 Hurricane Iota was sweeping early Monday across the western Caribbean toward Central America, where it is expected to make landfall in the same region battered by Hurricane Eta last week, forecasters said.
The rapidly strengthening Iota could wind up as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane by the time it reaches land, forecasters said.
The US National Hurricane Center in its 4 a.m. Monday advisory that Iota had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and was centered about 170 miles southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua-Honduras border as it moved west at 10 mph.
Iota, the 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season, is expected to reach the Central America mainland late Monday, according to the Miami-based NHC.
It forecast “potentially catastrophic winds, a life-threatening storm surge and extreme rainfall” for Central America as Iota became the year’s 13th hurricane.
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In Honduras, where mandatory evacuations began before the weekend, some 63,500 people were reported to be in 379 shelters just in the northern region by Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, Nicaraguan officials said that by late Sunday afternoon about 1,500 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas in the country’s northeast, including everyone in Cayo Misquitos.
In the coastal city of Bilwi, residents were desperately trying to secure the roofs of wooden homes with the same zinc sheets ripped off by Eta. Many people were wrapping their belongings in plastic bags to protect them from the expected deluge.
“We are worried, nervous. Psychologically we are not doing well, because losing our things and starting over is not easy. Some of us have old little houses and we risk losing everything,” Silvania Zamora told Agence France-Presse.
Iota was forecast to dump up to 16 inches of rain in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Belize, with as much as 30 inches in isolated spots.
With Post wires