Tropical Storm Iota strengthens to a hurricane as it approaches Central America

A lifeguard walks to the end of the jetty after closing it down to surfers before the arrival of Tropical Storm Eta in Bradenton Beach, Florida, U.S.

Iota has strengthened into the 13th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and is expected to become a major hurricane as it approaches Central America, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Sunday.

“Reconnaissance aircraft finds Iota has strengthened into the thirteenth hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season,” NHC said.

As of 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), Hurricane Iota was about 335 miles (539 km) off the Nicaraguan-Honduran coast, packing maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (145 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

“Iota is forecast to be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane when it approaches Central America,” the NHC warned.

Hurricane Iota is expected to make landfall by late Monday.

In Guatemala and Honduras, evacuations are already underway in areas expected to be affected by Iota.

“We have to get out, we have to save our lives,” Erick Gomez, a resident of Cruz de Valencia in northwestern Honduras, said on Saturday as he prepared to leave. He said he only survived the flooding from the last hurricane by clinging to a tree to avoid being swept away by rushing water.

“We are afraid of what we just suffered with Eta, and we do not want to go through the same thing again,” he added.

The storm comes as Central America is still coping with the massive destruction wrought by Hurricane Eta, which slammed into the region two weeks ago, causing flooding and mudslides that have killed scores of people across a huge swath from Panama to southern Mexico.

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