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2 Weeks After Eta, Nicaragua Braces For Massive Hurricane Iota

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

An extremely powerful Hurricane Iota has swirled into a Category 5 behemoth, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, as it moves toward the Nicaraguan coast. The storm is expected to make landfall later Monday, just two weeks after the Central American country weathered Hurricane Eta.

Iota is the 30th named storm of the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Eta, which made landfall in Nicaragua earlier this month as a Category 4 storm already wreaked havoc, killing at least 120 people in flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico before crossing Cuba and slicing through Florida.

As of 10 a.m. ET, Iota had strengthened and was located 40 miles west of the Colombian island of Providencia. It was moving west at 9 mph, according to the U.S.-based National Hurricane Center.

The NHC says Iota has the potential to bring catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and extreme rainfall to Central America when it makes landfall Monday evening.

Forecasters said the latest storm could dump 10 to 20 inches of rain in Honduras, northern Nicaragua, southeast Guatemala and southern Belize.

By Sunday evening, some 63,500 people had been evacuated in northern Honduras, according to official reports, with Nicaraguan officials saying Sunday afternoon that 1,500 people had been moved from low-lying areas of the country's northeast, including the inhabitants of Cayo Misquitos.

In Bilwi, where Eta made landfall on Nov. 3, residents were fearful that their homes might not stand up to the latest storm so soon after weathering the last one, The Associated Press reports.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.