Iota became the 13th hurricane of the Atlantic season early on Sunday, threatening to bring another dangerous system to Nicaragua and Honduras – both recently battered by a category 4 hurricane, Eta.
Iota was already a record-breaking system, the 30th named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Sunday Iota had maximum sustained winds of 85mph (137km/h), making it a category 1 hurricane. But forecasters said Iota would rapidly strengthen and was expected to be a major hurricane by the time it reaches Central America.
Iota was centered about 240 miles (386km) east of Isla de Providencia, Colombia, and was moving west-north-west at 6mph. Forecasters said Iota was expected to pass or cross over Providencia sometime on Monday and approach Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday evening.
The system was forecast to bring up to 30in of rain from north-east Nicaragua into northern Honduras. Costa Rica, Panama and El Salvador could also experience heavy rain and possible flooding, the NHC said.
Forecasters said Providencia and parts of Nicaragua and Honduras were under hurricane warnings. Storm surge could increase water levels by up to 13ft in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Iota threatened to wreak more havoc in a region where people are still grappling with the aftermath of Eta. That system hit Nicaragua just over a week ago as a category 4 hurricane, killing at least 120 as torrential rains brought flash floods and landslides to parts of Central America and Mexico.
Then it meandered across Cuba, the Florida Keys and around the Gulf of Mexico before slogging ashore again near Cedar Key, Florida, and dashing across Florida and the Carolinas.
Eta was the 28th named storm of this year’s hurricane season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. On Sunday Theta, the 29th, was weakening over the far eastern Atlantic. It was expected to become a remnant low, forecasters said.
The official end of hurricane season is 30 November.