Hurricane Iota Rapidly Intensifies East of Nicaragua

Hurricane Iota rapidly intensified east of Nicaragua on Sunday morning. At 10:00 a.m. EST on Sunday the center of Hurricane Iota was located at latitude 13.2°N and longitude 77.8°W which put it about 380 miles (615 km) east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. Iota was moving toward the west-northwest at 6 m.p.h. (10 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 85 m.p.h. (135 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 982 mb.

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

Hurricane Iota was intensifying rapidly on Sunday morning. A small eye formed at the center of Iota. The eye was surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms. Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Hurricane Iota. Storms near the core generated strong upper level divergence which pumped mass away from the hurricane. The removal of mass caused the surface pressure to decrease quickly, which contributed to the rapid intensification. Winds to hurricane force extended out 30 miles from the center of circulation. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 90 miles from the center.

Hurricane Iota will move through an environment very favorable for intensification during the next 36 hours. Iota will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C. It will move through a region where the upper level winds are weak and there will be little vertical wind shear. Hurricane Iota is likely to continue to intensify rapidly. Iota could strengthen into a major hurricane within 24 hours and it could intensify to Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Hurricane 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 near the border between Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday night. Hurricane Iota is likely be a major hurricane when it reaches the coast. Nicaragua and Honduras are still trying to cope with floods and other damage caused by Hurricane Eta a few days ago. Another major hurricane could have catastrophic consequences for that region.

Elsewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, former Tropical Storm Theta weakened to a tropical depression southwest of Madeira. At 7:00 a.m. EST on Sunday the center of Tropical Depression Theta was located at latitude 31.8°N and longitude 18.3°W which put it about 120 miles (195 km) southwest of Madeira. Theta was moving toward the east at 3 m.p.h. (5 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 35 m.p.h. (55 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 45 m.p.h. (75 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 1003 mb.

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