Hurricane Iota has made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4 major hurricane after pummeling the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia.
The storm made landfall near the town of Haulover at 10:40 p.m. EST with sustained winds near 155 mph, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Iota’s landfall location is approximately 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on November 3rd.
Iota first impacted the islands of San Andres and Providencia, which have been part of Colombia for centuries, but are geographically closer to Central America than to the Colombian mainland.
The storm is expected to move inland across northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras Tuesday.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Providencia, while San Andres is under a hurricane watch, the hurricane center said.
Duque said Monday at least one person is dead on Providencia and 90% of the island’s infrastructure has been affected by Iota. The local airport is also unusable because of debris, Duque said.
“It’s the first time that a category 5 Hurricane has reached our territory since records began,” Duque said during a national press conference from the Colombian capital of Bogota. “We are facing an issue with characteristics never before witnessed by our country.”
A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi, and the northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Nicaragua border, according to the hurricane center.
Before it weakened, Iota was the first Category 5 storm of this record-breaking hurricane season and is threatening many areas of Central America that are still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Eta.
Iota will weaken rapidly after landfall and is forecast to dissipate over Central America by Wednesday, the advisory said.
Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are also in effect for surrounding area.
Heavy rains could bring flooding and landslides
Rainfall accumulations throughout Central America are expected to be high, with Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Belize seeing between 8 and 16 inches and isolated accumulations of 20 to 30 inches possible in northeast Nicaragua and northern Honduras, according to the advisory.
Costa Rica and Panama should also see about 4 to 8 inches, with up to 12 inches possible in some areas.
Such high rainfall amounts will “lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain,” the advisory warned.
The predicted storm surge along the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras will be accompanied by “large and destructive waves,” along with swells that cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” according to the advisory.
Swells will be felt from Central America to the Yucatan Peninsula, as far east as Jamaica and as far south as Colombia.
Central America still recovering from Eta
Iota will be the second major hurricane to hit the area in as many weeks. On November 3, Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 storm, causing landslides and flooding that displaced thousands and left scores of people dead or missing.
It is the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which has left its mark as a historic season bringing 30 named storms – the most ever. This is the latest in the year there has ever been a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin, according to the hurricane center.
More than 3.6 million people across Central America have been affected by the storm to varying degrees, the Red Cross said earlier this week.
While the full extent of the damage from Eta won’t be known for a while, the powerful storm, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, may have effects that last for years.
The storm hovered for days over Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, with heavy rains creating flooding and landslides that wiped entire communities off the map.
Dozens of people in the remote Guatemalan village of San Cristobal remain missing after a landslide swept through last week, leaving mud 50 feet deep in some places.
CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Gene Norman and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.