Fifteen miles, or roughly the distance from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan to JFK International Airport in Queens, is all that separates Puerto Cabezas and Haulover in Nicaragua. On Monday night, Hurricane Iota made landfall near the town of Haulover, becoming the second major hurricane in as many weeks to strike the area after Hurricane Eta came ashore in Puerto Cabezas on Nov. 3.
Just as the coastal region began making strides in its recovery from Eta, Iota brewed up even stronger impacts and thrashed the same communities with 155-mph winds at Monday night’s landfall, the strongest tropical cyclone of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Making landfall at 10:40 p.m. EST Monday, Iota’s maximum sustained winds were just 2 mph shy of Category 5 status.
By Tuesday afternoon, as the center of Iota barged inland across Nicaragua, it had weakened to a strong tropical storm with sustained winds of 65 mph and was spreading heavy rainfall across Honduras, El Salvador and parts of Guatemala.
The pair of November hurricanes marked the first time on record that two major hurricanes made landfall in Nicaragua in the same season, further devastating the saturated nation that was still flooded from Eta, a storm that claimed at least 130 lives.
The humanitarian crisis that was set into motion after Eta’s feet of rainfall will be severely compounded by Iota’s torrential rainfall. AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers warned before Iota crashed onshore that the back-to-back hurricane landfalls may cause “one of the worst floods in some of these areas in a thousand years or more,” since the ground was still saturated from Eta when Iota lashed the region. The mountainous terrain will further play into the disaster unfolding, adding to the dangers of significant flooding and mudslides.
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