Iota Could Drop Another 20-30″ of Rain on Areas Just Devastated by Eta

Nicaragua and Honduras, devastated by Hurricane Eta just a little more than a week ago by up to 40 inches of rain, could see another 20 to 30 inches from Iota. Iota formed today in the central Caribbean.

Meanwhile, people in Central America are still digging out from landslides, trying to restore their homes from floods, and dealing with loss of crops, airports, roads and other infrastructure.

Two Major Hurricanes in Two Weeks

Eta hit Nicaragua a little more than a week ago as a Category 4 storm, killing at least 120 people in flash floods and landslides in Central America, according to the Associated Press.

Forecasters say that Iota could also rapidly intensify into a major hurricane, given ideal conditions in the Caribbean.

To put these monster rainfall totals into perspective, Harvey dumped an average of approximately 45 inches across 1000 square miles in the Houston Area. Three years later, we’re still trying to recover.

The combination of these two storms could mean 50% more rain in Central America than Houston received during Harvey.

Forecast track for Iota

NHC Forecast

The National Hurricane Center says that Iota’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 40 mph with higher gusts. Steady to rapid strengthening is likely over the weekend, and the system is forecast to be a major hurricane when it approaches Central America.

Across remaining sections of Central America, the system has the potential to produce 20 to 30 inches of rain with a focus across northern Nicaragua and Honduras. This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain.

The environment ahead of Iota appears to be quite conducive for intensification. The system will be moving over warm waters, in a moist atmosphere, and within an area of very low vertical wind shear. As a result, steady to rapid strengthening appears likely over the next few days.

Record-Setting Season

“Iota is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season,” said the Associated Press.

Eta may also have tied or exceeded Gordon for the longest-lived tropical event. Gordon formed on November 8, 1994 and dissipated almost two weeks later on November 21. Hurricane Eta formed on October 31 this year and dissipated today, November 13. Thus, it may have lasted a day longer. However, the experts have not yet made an official announcement that I have seen.

Why Such a Busy Season?

Dr. Nelun Fernando, a climatologist writing for the Texas Water Development Board, says, that currently we are under the influence of La Niña. “You can think of El Niño and La Niña as two faces of the same coin, where the coin is a phenomenon known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (also referred to as ENSO).”I

“La Niña is associated with a more active Atlantic hurricane season,” he says. “This increased activity is because the vertical wind shear (the change in wind speed and direction with height) is weaker during a La Niña year, enabling tropical storms to develop vertically without impediment.”

In La Niña years, steering currents that could cause wind sheer shift farther north, letting more storms develop in the tropical Atlantic.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/13/2020

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