Hurricane Iota, upgraded to a Category 2 storm, inched closer to Central America on Sunday as countries reeling from the devastation left by Hurricane Eta nearly two weeks ago prepared for another major storm system.
“It’s eerie that it’s similar in wind speed and also in the same area that Eta hit,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm in this record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, is expected to make landfall along the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras by Monday night as a Category 4 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was about 255 miles east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the Nicaragua-Honduras border, and moved west at nine miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 100 m.p.h., as of 7 p.m. Sunday.
The storm’s impact will be felt “well before the center makes landfall,” Mr. Feltgen said.
Catastrophic winds, along with a life-threatening surge in water levels, could affect portions of the Nicaragua-Honduras coast. Heavy rainfall is expected through Friday in portions of Central America and could lead to intense flooding and mudslides in more elevated areas. The storm is set to weaken upon landfall as it moves across mountainous terrain, the center said.
Forecasters warned that damage from Hurricane Iota could compound the destruction caused by Hurricane Eta in Central America.
More than 60 deaths were confirmed throughout Central America from Hurricane Eta. In Guatemala, rescuers feared that more than 100 people had been killed after the storm chopped off part of a mountain slope that crushed multiple homes in the village of Quejá.
Many people were left homeless after a number of structures were damaged or destroyed, Mr. Feltgen said. “Shelter is going to be a problem.”
Dozens of Indigenous communities were evacuated Saturday night through Sunday in Nicaragua and Honduras. In the neighborhood of Puerto Cabezas, in Nicaragua, families are sleeping amid the rubble left from Hurricane Eta.
Elsewhere in the country, it is not yet clear how many people have been transferred to shelters, but smartphone images sent by eyewitness show hundreds of residents being evacuated in Cabo Gracias a Dios and other remote villages where Hurricane Iota is expected to hit.
Sadam Vinicius, a father of three, decided to stay with his family at their home near the coast. Afraid of losing his roof, he attempted to save it from damage by tying it up with ropes he uses for his work as a fisherman.
Marina Rodríguez, 47, said her home had disappeared during the surge of Hurricane Eta. Her children are now helping her build temporary shelter, but the threat of Hurricane Iota looms.
“I am afraid of the sea level,” she said. “You can see the water coming up and up every minute, so I guess we will have to evacuate.”
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which is set to end on Nov. 30, has seen 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes. Meteorologists exhausted the 21-name list used each season, turning to the Greek alphabet to name systems. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, which saw 28 storms strong enough to be named.
Alfonso Flores Bermúdez contributed reporting from Nicaragua.