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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.

As Central America recovers from Hurricane Eta, which made landfall earlier this month as a Category 4, the region is bracing for yet another hurricane.

Tropical Storm Iota, currently in the Caribbean Sea, is forecast to strengthen and inundate the area beginning sometime Monday. The National Hurricane Center warns that dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall could impact portions of Honduras and Nicaragua with additional dangers in parts of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.

The results could be devastating for a region that is still recovering from Eta, which has so far 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 Sociedad Biblica de Guatemala told Accuweather.

Iota was moving west-southwest at around 7 mph Saturday afternoon, and expected to speed up as it moves across the southwest Caribbean Sea over the next day or so, approaching the Central American coast on Monday, according to NHC forecaster Daniel Brown.

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 rain, with isolated areas getting up to a foot.

"Iota is expected to intensify and be at or near major hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of Central America," 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."

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.