Tropical Storm Iota Forecast To Become The Atlantic’s Next Hurricane

Tropical Storm Iota is forecast to become a dangerous and major hurricane early this upcoming week as it nears Central America. Iota will likely impact Honduras and Nicaragua, already reeling from Hurricane Eta’s recent deluge.

With the formation of Tropical Storm Iota, 2020 has now recorded 31 systems that reached tropical depression strength and 30 named storms. Breaking 2005’s record, that season recorded 31 systems that reached tropical depression strength, with 28 named storms. This is the first time Iota has been used operationally in Atlantic History.

Iota is forecast to be a major blow to Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, still recovering from the devastating impact of Eta just last weekend. Rainfall totals between 20 to 30 inches are possible. This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain.

This tropical cyclone is not forecast to directly impact Trinidad, Tobago, or the Lesser Antilles as it moves generally eastward.

List of names for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The next named tropical cyclone will be called Kappa.
List of names for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The next named tropical cyclone will be called Kappa.

At 5:00 PM AST, the center of Tropical Storm Iota was located near latitude 12.6 North, longitude 76.5 West. Iota is moving toward the west-southwest near 7 mph (11 km/h). A westward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected to begin very soon and continue through Monday night. On the forecast track, Iota will move across the southwest Caribbean Sea tonight and Sunday, pass near or over Providencia island on Monday and approach the coasts of Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras Monday afternoon or evening.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 60 mph (95 km/h) with higher gusts. Steady to rapid strengthening is expected during the next day or two, and Iota is forecast to be at or near major hurricane strength when it approaches Central America.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km) from the center. The estimated minimum central pressure based on Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft data is 995 millibars.

Tropical Storm Iota Forecast Track as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020. (National Hurricane Center)
Tropical Storm Iota Forecast Track as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020. (National Hurricane Center)

Watches & Warnings

Tropical Storm Iota Watches and Warnings as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020. (National Hurricane Center)
Tropical Storm Iota Watches and Warnings as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020. (National Hurricane Center)

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Providencia

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • The coast of Nicaragua from the Honduras/Nicaragua border to Sandy Bay Sirpi
  • The coast of northeastern Honduras from Punta Patuca to the Honduras/Nicaragua border
  • San Andres

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • San Andres

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • The northern coast of Honduras from west of Punta Patuca to Punta Castilla

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

Interests elsewhere in Nicaragua and Honduras should monitor the progress of Iota.

For storm information specific to your area, please monitor products issued by your national meteorological service.

Hazards Affecting Land

Tropical Storm Iota probabilities for tropical-storm-force winds as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020, as well as the most likely time of arrival of tropical-storm-force winds. (National Hurricane Center)
Tropical Storm Iota probabilities for tropical-storm-force winds as of 5:00 PM AST Saturday 14th November 2020, as well as the most likely time of arrival of tropical-storm-force winds. (National Hurricane Center)

RAINFALL: Iota is expected to produce the following rainfall accumulations through Thursday:

  • Honduras, northern Nicaragua, eastern Guatemala, southern Belize: 8 to 16 inches (200 to 400 mm). Isolated maximum totals of 20-30 inches (500 to 750 mm) will be possible, especially from northeast Nicaragua into northern Honduras. This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain.
  • Costa Rica, Panama, and northern Colombia: 4 to 8 inches (100 to 200 mm), with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches (300 mm). This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain.
  • El Salvador, southern Nicaragua, and southern Honduras: 2 to 4 inches (50 to 100 mm), with isolated maximum totals of 6 inches (150 mm).
  • Jamaica: 1 to 3 inches (25 to 75 mm)

WIND: Hurricane conditions are expected on the island of Providencia by late Sunday night with tropical storm conditions expected beginning Sunday evening. Hurricane conditions are possible within the Hurricane Warning area in Nicaragua and Honduras by late Monday, with tropical storm conditions possible by Monday afternoon. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin on the island of San Andres late Sunday or Sunday night with hurricane conditions possible Sunday night or early Monday.

SURF: Swells generated by Iota will affect portions of the coast of Colombia, and the southern coasts of Hispaniola and Jamaica during the next day or two. Swells will begin to reach the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras on Monday. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather office.

This system is of no direct threat to the Windward Islands, including Trinidad and Tobago.

Tropical Storm Iota Forecast Discussion

Tropical Storm Iota (Weathernerds.org)

Deep convection has re-developed closer to the low-level center of Iota during the afternoon, and there has been an increase in banding over the southeastern portion of the circulation. Data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft that has flown an unusually long mission from its base in Biloxi, Mississippi, indicate that the increase in organization has resulted in strengthening. The plane measured peak 925-mb flight-level winds of 55 kt, and SFMR winds of 46 kt. Those were the basis for the increase in wind speed on the 1800 UTC intermediate advisory. Given the continued increase in organization, the initial intensity has been set at 50 kt for this advisory. The aircraft reported that the minimum pressure had fallen to around 995 mb during its final pass through the center.

The aircraft data indicate that Iota has not developed a tight inner core yet, but with the increase in convection closer to the center, and with the storm moving away from the coast of northwestern Colombia, it is likely Iota will begin to strengthen at a faster rate by Sunday. The upper-level wind pattern is forecast to become quite favorable while the storm traverses SSTs of around 29C. These conditions are likely to result in steady to rapid strengthening over the next couple of days and the NHC intensity forecast again predicts that Iota will be at or near major hurricane strength when it nears the coast of Central America. The SHIPS model is explicitly forecasting rapid intensification (a 30-kt increase in wind speed) over each of the next 24 h periods, and the NHC intensity forecast is quite similar, and is also in good agreement with the HFIP corrected consensus aid.

Satellite imagery and the aircraft fixes show that Iota has continued to move west-southwestward today. A mid-level ridge over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida should build eastward over the western Atlantic during the next day or two. This should allow Iota to move westward to west-northwestward at a slightly faster forward speed, with this motion bringing the storm near the coast of northeastern Nicaragua or Honduras by late Monday. After landfall, a west-southwestward motion is expected to take the center of Iota inland over Central America. The track guidance has again shifted southward, partially due to the more southward initial position once again. This has resulted in another southward shift in the NHC track forecast, which is again near the TVCA multi-model consensus.

The latest track forecast necessitates the issuance of a Hurricane Warning for Providencia island, and Hurricane Watches were issued earlier this afternoon for portions of the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. In addition to the wind and storm surge threats, Iota is likely to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to portions of Central America that are still recovering from Hurricane Eta’s impacts.

Key Messages:

  1. Iota is expected to intensify and be at or near major hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of Central America. There is a risk of damaging wind and a dangerous storm surge across portions of Nicaragua and Honduras beginning Monday, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect for a portion of that area.
  2. Hurricane conditions are expected and storm surge impacts are possible on Providencia beginning late Sunday night. Tropical storm conditions are expected and hurricane conditions are possible by Sunday evening on San Andres.
  3. Through Thursday, heavy rainfall from Iota will likely lead to life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding across portions of northern Colombia and Central America. Flooding and mudslides in Honduras and Nicaragua could be exacerbated by Hurricane Eta’s recent effects there, resulting in significant impacts.

Forecast discussion by NHC Forecaster Brown.

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