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Hurricane Iota, first category 5 storm of 2020, forecast to make landfall Monday night

The storm is forecast to bring 160 mph winds and a 15-20 foot storm surge to an area of Central America hit by Hurricane Eta only two weeks ago.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The 2020 hurricane season has been record-setting, the strongest storm of the year is expected to make landfall Monday night. 

On Monday morning, Hurricane Iota intensified to a Category 5 hurricane. The storm became stronger than historic Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed more than 1,800 people. 

Hurricane Iota is now the strongest hurricane on record this late in the hurricane season. The old record was the Cuba Hurricane which occurred on Nov. 8, 1932. Iota and the Cuba Hurricane are the only Category 5 hurricanes to ever occur in November—so it's extremely rare.

As of the National Hurricane Center's latest advisory, Hurricane Iota is now a "dangerous" Category 5 storm. The storm has sustained winds of 160 mph and is moving west at 9 mph. It is currently about 55 miles east-southeast of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

This is a catastrophic situation unfolding for northeastern Nicaragua with an extreme, 15-20 feet storm surge forecast along with destructive winds and potentially 30 inches of rainfall. 

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Iota should make landfall in almost the exact same location that Category 4 Hurricane Eta did about two weeks ago, where the soil is already saturated, leaving it prone to new landslides and floods. 

The National Hurricane Center says a little more strengthening is possible before making landfall tonight.

Credit: KBMT
Credit: KBMT

Tracking the Tropics

Latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center...

At 400 PM EST (2100 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Iota was located near latitude 13.6 North, longitude 82.7 West. Iota is moving toward the west near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general motion is forecast  through landfall. 

After landfall, a westward to west-southwestward  motion is expected. On the forecast track, the core of Iota will  make landfall within the hurricane warning area in northeastern Nicaragua tonight, and dissipate over central America by Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 160 mph (260 km/h) with higher gusts.  Iota is forecast to continue to be a catastrophic category 5 hurricane when it approaches Central America tonight, and rapid weakening is expected after landfall.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km). Puerto Cabezas airport in Nicaragua recently reported sustained winds of 44 mph (71 km/h) with a gust to 68 mph (109 km/h).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 919 mb (27.14 inches) based on Air Force reconnaissance data.

Be prepared if a storm comes our way

BEFORE THE STORM

  • Make a home inventory
  • Have a current copy of your declarations page that has your policy number and your agent's number
  • Review your policy with your insurance agent to determine if you have adequate coverage
  • Repair loose boards, shingles, shutters and downspouts to prevent them from becoming an issue in high winds or torrential rain
  • Have an evacuation plan, and include plans for your pets
  • Make sure your emergency equipment is in working order, including a battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries. Also, make sure to gather all medicine, replenish your first-aid kit and stock a week's worth of non-perishable food and water
  • Charge your cell phone and fill your car with gas
  • Program all emergency phone numbers

RELATED: Hurricane preparation tips for insurance: Before, during and after the storm

DURING THE STORM

  • If you are advised to evacuate, leave as soon as possible. Retain all related receipts - they may be considered in your claim. If you aren't in a recommended evacuation and you plant to stay home, stay informed by listening to weather alerts
  • Keep windows and doors closed at all time, and, if possible, board them up with wooden or metal shutters
  • Stay away from the windows and in the center of the room, or, stay in an interior room
  • Avoid flood water, as it may be electrically charged from downed power lines
  • Check on family members and friends\

RELATED: Here's how to get severe weather alerts via the 12NewsNow App

AFTER THE STORM

  • Check to be sure your family members are safe
  • If you did evacuate, wait for official notice that it is safe to re-enter your neighborhood and your house
  • Document damaged property, and take photos and videos. Don't dispose of any damaged items without approval
  • Keep a record of any temporary repairs or expenses to prevent further damage to your property.

RELATED: Here are some generator safety tips for hurricane season