Hurricane Iota Rapidly Intensifies to Cat. 5

Hurricane Iota rapidly intensified to Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale on Monday morning. At 10:00 a.m. EST on Monday the center of Hurricane Iota was located at latitude 13.5°N and longitude 82.0°W which put it about 100 miles (160 km) east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. Iota was moving toward the west at 9 m.p.h. (15 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 160 m.p.h. (260 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 190 m.p.h. (305 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 917 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 the Honduras/Guatemala border including the Bay Islands. A Tropical Storm Warning was also in effect for San Andres.

Hurricane Iota intensified very rapidly on Sunday night and it reached Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale on Monday morning. A reconnaissance aircraft found a circular eye with a diameter of 14 miles (22 km) 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 in all directions. The removal of large quantities of mass allowed the surface pressure to decrease rapidly which produced the very rapid intensification.

Winds to hurricane force extended out 35 miles (55 km) from the center of Hurricane Iota. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 150 miles (240 km) from the center. The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Iota was 35.0. The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 13.9 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 48.9. Hurricane Iota was capable of causing catastrophic damage.

Hurricane Iota will move through an capable of supporting a very intense hurricane on Monday. 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. If the inner end of a rainband wraps around the existing eye and eyewall, then an eyewall replacement cycle could begin. An eyewall replacement cycle could cause Hurricane Iota to start to weaken, but Iota could still be at Category 5 when it makes landfall on the northern coast of Nicaragua.

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 a little to the south of the border between Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday night. Hurricane Iota will be a major hurricane when it reaches the coast and it could be at Category 5. Nicaragua and Honduras are still trying to cope with floods and other damage caused by Hurricane Eta. Another major hurricane could have catastrophic consequences for that region.

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