Tropical Storm Iota forecast to hit storm-ravaged Central America as a major hurricane early next week

 Tropical Storm Iota forecast to hit storm-ravaged Central America as a major hurricane early next week

Iota, which formed Friday at sea, was centered in the Caribbean about 610 miles east of the Nicaragua-Honduras border with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph as of 10 p.m. ET Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasts call for Iota to continue heading west and make landfall somewhere in Central America, potentially near the Honduras-Nicaragua border by late Monday, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said.

Iota is expected to become a hurricane at sea this weekend. By landfall, it is expected to be a major hurricane — at least a Category 3 — with winds of at least 111 mph, the NHC said.

Besides delivering damaging winds, Iota could drop 8 to 20 inches of rain on Honduras and northern Nicaragua through Wednesday, the NHC said — unwelcome news for a region pummeled by Hurricane Eta last week.

Other areas would receive 3 to 10 inches of rain through Wednesday: Costa Rica, Panama, northern Colombia, southern Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador, the NHC said.

“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 Friday.

Iota is 30th named storm in the Atlantic this year — the most ever for an Atlantic hurricane season.

Central America devastated by Hurricane Eta

Eta crossed into northern Nicaragua on November 3 as a Category 4 hurricane, and pounded that country and Honduras, Guatemala and Belize for days with heavy rain. It caused landslides and serious flooding, and left scores of people dead or missing.
In Central America, a devastating storm and an uncertain future
The full scope of the damage from Eta likely won’t be known for a while. But the powerful storm, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, may be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region.
More than 3.6 million people across Central America have been affected by the storm to varying degrees, the Red Cross said earlier this week.

Even before the storm, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala had poor public health systems that were struggling against Covid-19.

With thousands in shelters, and social distancing hard to do, many fear that the disease will spread. Hospitals there now also face the burden of combating other illnesses related to the storm and flooding, from dengue to cholera to yellow fever.

CNN’s Matt Rivers, Natalie Gallón and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.

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