Tropical Storm Iota Strengthens, Hurricane Watches for Nicaragua and Honduras

Tropical Storm Iota strengthened on Saturday and Hurricane Watches were issued for the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. At 1:00 p.m. EST on Saturday the center of Tropical Storm Iota was located at latitude 12.6°N and longitude 76.4°W which put it about 485 miles (780 km) east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. Iota was moving toward the west-southwest at 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 1002 mb.

A Hurricane Watch was issued for the portion of the coast from Sandy Bay Sirpi, Nicaragua to Punta Patuca, Honduras and for Providencia Island. Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for San Andres and Providencia Island. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the portion of the coast from Punta Patuca to Punta Castilla, Honduras.

A U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter plane found on Saturday afternoon that Tropical Storm Iota had strengthened. The maximum sustained wind speed had increased to 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) and the minimum surface pressure had decreased to 1002 mb. The circulation around Tropical Storm Iota was still organizing. Many of the stronger thunderstorms were occurring in bands on the eastern side of Iota. Bands in the western side of the circulation consisted primarily of showers and lower clouds. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 90 miles (145 km) in the eastern half of Iota. Most of the winds on the western side of the circulation were blowing at less than tropical storm force.

Tropical Storm Iota will move through an environment favorable for intensification during the next 48 hours. Iota will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C. An upper level trough over the western Caribbean Sea has been producing southwesterly winds which were blowing toward the top of Iota. The upper level trough will move westward away from Tropical Storm Iota and the wind shear will decrease on Sunday. Iota is likely to strengthen more rapidly after an inner core is formed. Tropical Storm Iota could rapidly intensify into a hurricane on Sunday and it could strengthen to a major hurricane on Monday.

Tropical Storm Iota will move south of a high pressure system over the western Atlantic Ocean. The high will steer Iota toward the west during the next several days. On its anticipated track Iota could approach the coast of Nicaragua on Monday. It will likely be a hurricane at that time and it could be a major hurricane. Nicaragua and Honduras are still trying to cope with floods and other damage caused by Hurricane Eta a few days ago. Another hurricane could have catastrophic consequences for that region.

Elsewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Storm Theta moved toward Madeira. At 10:00 a.m. EST on Saturday the center of Tropical Storm Theta was located at latitude 31.6°N and longitude 20.2°W which put it about 210 miles (340 km) west-southwest of Madeira. Theta was moving toward the east at 8 m.p.h. (13 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 40 m.p.h. (65 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 1000 mb.

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