Hurricane Iota damage in Providencia
Damage on the Colombian island of Providencia (population 6,300), about 145 miles east of Nicaragua's coast, after category 5 Hurricane Iota destroyed 80% of the homes on the island. (Image credit: Everth Hawkins Sjogreen, Gobernador del Departamento Archipiélago de San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina)

After leaving catastrophic damage across multiple nations in Central America, Hurricane Iota finally dissipated on Wednesday morning over El Salvador.

Dakota Smith tweet

The full scope of Iota’s destruction is as yet unclear as many of the areas hardest-hit by the hurricane remain cut off from communication, but at least 13 deaths were being blamed on the storm late Wednesday morning, with many more missing.

Iota made landfall in northern Nicaragua on Monday night, November 16, as a high-end category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. Iota came ashore about 30 miles south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua (population 40,000) – just 15 miles south of where category 4 Hurricane Eta hit on November 3 (see Tweet by Dakota Smith). Although Iota moved slightly farther from Puerto Cabezas than Eta, Iota had a larger and stronger wind field than Eta.

In an email, David Adams of Univision characterized that city as “pretty much destroyed” after the pummeling by Eta and Iota. Iota’s winds tore the roof off of the city’s makeshift hospital, Reuters reported. The area’s primary New Dawn Hospital has been unsafe to use since Hurricane Eta, according to 100% Noticias El Canal.

At least eight deaths were reported in Nicaragua from the hurricane late Wednesday morning, and up to 30 people were missing in a landslide near Matagalpa.

Flooding at San Pedro Airport
Flooding at the San Pedro Airport in Honduras on November 18, after Iota.

Heavy flooding was observed in northern Honduras, where 10.13 inches of rain fell in 24 hours at the La Ceiba airport before communications were lost (see this Facebook page for numerous videos of the flood near Trujillo in northern Honduras). The airport at San Pedro was flooded, as seen in the Tweet by J. Vidal. There are relatively few reports of damaging flooding in southern Honduras, home to the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The capital received just 1.84 inches of rain in the 36 hours ending at 7 a.m. EST Wednesday. Iota is responsible for one death in Honduras, and one death each in Panama and El Salvador, according to La Prensa.

Iota demolishes Colombia’s Providencia Island

On Monday morning, when Hurricane Iota was at category 5 strength, the storm’s southern eyewall passed over the Colombian island of Providencia (population 6,300), about 145 miles east of Nicaragua’s coast. Iota caused catastrophic damage on Providencia, destroying 80% of the homes, along with the hospital and fire station. The other 20% of the island’s homes were damaged, and 98% of the island’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed by Iota. A field hospital was being set up on Wednesday to treat the injured. At least two people on the island were reported killed as a result of the hurricane.

Iota remnants bringing additional heavy rains

Satellite imagery early Wednesday afternoon showed Iota’s remnants still generating heavy rains over Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. According to the final advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Iota, the hurricane’s remnants are expected to bring an additional 4-8 inches of rain to portions of Honduras, Guatemala, and southern Belize, with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches, Wednesday through Thursday. Over the same time span, portions of Nicaragua and El Salvador may receive an additional 2-4 inches, with isolated maximum totals of six inches.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Predicted three-day rainfall ending at 1 a.m. EST Saturday, November 21, from the 1 a.m. EST Wednesday, November 18, run of the GFS model. The model predicted that Iota would dump additional rainfall amounts of more than five inches (orange colors) to portions of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. (Image credit: NOAA/AOML)

Central America is expected to experience disturbed weather well into next week, with frequent bouts of heavy rain likely to bring an additional 2-4 inches of rain Friday through Monday to the areas hardest hit by Iota, particularly northern Honduras and central Guatemala.

Two tropical disturbances to watch this weekend

Recent runs of the GFS and European models have consistently predicted that an area of low pressure capable of developing into a tropical storm will form by Saturday over the southwestern Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Panama. However, the models were less certain about development of this disturbance in their Wednesday morning runs than they were in their Tuesday runs.

The most recent model forecasts show the disturbance developing very close to the coast of Panama by Saturday, then potentially crossing into the eastern Pacific Ocean, bringing heavy rains to the Pacific coast of Central America early next week. Panama would be at highest risk of heavy rains, with 4-8 inches of rain possible Friday through Sunday. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Kappa, the 10th letter of the Greek alphabet.

In a 1 p.m. EST Wednesday tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 2-day and 5-days odds of development of 0% and 10%, respectively, to this future disturbance.

NHC was also watching the waters off the U.S. East Coast between the Bahamas and Bermuda, where models predict that an area of low pressure capable of becoming a subtropical storm will form on Sunday or Monday. The only land area that might be threatened by this potential storm is Bermuda. The system is expected to move rapidly to the northeast past Bermuda on Monday.

Also see: How climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous

In a 1 p.m. EST Wednesday tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 2-day and 5-days odds of development of 0% and 20%, respectively, to this future system.

Donations to assist hurricane victims

For those wanting to help out with charitable donations for those suffering from the hurricanes of 2020, Jeff Ernst, a reporter working in Honduras, wrote in an email that, “World Vision is doing a good job of responding to the disaster and I know several people in the local administration here and think highly of them.” Donations can be made via Hurricane Eta donation link to help out in Honduras, or through, the disaster relief charity founded by members of the Weather Underground user community. Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami has tweeted out locations where donated goods can be left for Honduras relief.

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Posted on November 18, 2020(2:22pm EST).

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

14 replies on “Deaths, destruction reported in aftermath of Hurricane Iota”

  1. Thank you Dr. Masters for post. An IOTA tragedy on top of an ETA catastrophe…..unfathomable for most of us sitting in our comfy, dry homes. Must try to help in any way possible.
    PS…..since I can’t seem to post comments on Wunderground discus I just want to give a shoutout to Jiiski, Carmot & Patrap for all their wonderful comments & info during last weeks. (Maybe they post here from time to time.) Marvelous in their humanity, insight & intellect.

  2. gee Prayers for those suffering People down there, a Terrible thing.. 2 BAD Hurricanes almost 1 after the other in mostly the same places there

  3. Thanks so much, Dr. Masters. It can’t be easy to write a post like this.
    Though hearts are broken, people will help as they always have, survivors will rebuild or relocate, and many hearts will finally mend.
    It helps to have your writing and the blog still carrying on.

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