Hurricane Iota rapidly strengthened Monday into a Category 5 storm that is likely to bring catastrophic damage to the same part of Central America already battered by a powerful Hurricane Eta less than two weeks ago. Iota has intensified over the western Caribbean on approach to Nicaragua and Honduras, the AP reports. US Air Force hurricane hunters flew into Iota’s core and measured maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, the US National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 100 miles east-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and moving westward at 9mph. Authorities warned that Iota would probably come ashore over areas where Eta’s torrential rains saturated the soil, leaving it prone to new landslides and floods, and that the storm surge could reach a shocking 12 to 18 feet above normal tides.
Iota, the first Category 5 storm of the season, became a hurricane early Sunday and rapidly gained more power. The NHC warned it would probably reach the Central America mainland late Monday. Iota is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. It’s also the ninth storm to rapidly intensify this season, a dangerous phenomenon that is happening increasingly more often. USA Today reports that according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, this is the strongest storm ever recorded so late in hurricane season, which officially ends Nov. 30.
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