Hurricane Iota: One dead in Colombia

One dead in Colombia as Hurricane Iota moves across Nicaragua

Hurricane Iota in Providencia, Colombia, on November 17, 2020. - Iota left one person dead after sweeping the Colombian Caribbean island of Providencia, where it caused widespread damage. Credit: Colombian Presidency / AFP

Stretches of Central America braced for heavy rain, strong winds and flooding Tuesday morning as Hurricane Iota bore down on the region, the second hurricane to strike the area in less than two weeks.

Even as Iota weakened after making landfall overnight, the National Hurricane Center warned it could have an outsized effect as it batters areas still recovering from Hurricane Eta this month, including portions of Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

There could be “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides” across parts of Central America, the center warned.

Iota, which became a hurricane Sunday, is expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain as it moves further inland across northern Nicaragua and into southern Honduras overnight into Wednesday. The storm is forecast to dissipate over Central America early Wednesday.

The threat of flooding and landslides loomed over the region as Colombia reported the storm’s first casualty on the island of Providencia, where Hurricane Iota struck as a catastrophic Category 5 overnight before weakening as it approached Nicaragua.

Iota made landfall in northeastern Nicaragua at 10:40 p.m. Eastern time Monday as a Category 4 storm, with wind speeds up to about 155 mph, according to the hurricane center. With waters rising in the northeastern Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, hundreds of families evacuated from coastal communities as the storm ripped roofs from homes and hotels.

By Tuesday morning, Iota’s maximum wind speed had decreased to 75 mph, and the storm had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane, although the hurricane center still warned of the storm’s danger.

No major incidents or loss of life had been reported by Nicaraguan authorities as of early Tuesday, though infrastructure was damaged in some locations. Iota was expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Tuesday afternoon.

Aid workers struggled to reach communities that were cut off by washed-out bridges, downed trees and flooded roads left by Hurricane Eta, which made landfall this month about 15 miles from where Iota struck.

Iota was expected to move inland across Nicaragua during the morning and across southern Honduras by the evening. On Tuesday morning, the storm’s eye was about 135 miles east of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.