Tropical Storm Iota strengthened into a hurricane early Sunday as it continued to carve a path through the Caribbean Sea, days after becoming the 30th named storm in the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
The storm, which was moving west-northwest at nine miles per hour as of 10 a.m. Sunday, was about 335 miles east of Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the Nicaragua-Honduras border, with maximum sustained winds around 90 m.p.h. It was expected to strengthen steadily and gain speed over the next couple of days as it approached Central America, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Iota could become a major hurricane — Category 3 or above — as it approaches Central America, Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Friday night. It is expected to reach the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua on Monday. Rainfall could total 16 to 30 inches in some areas.
A hurricane warning was issued for the Colombian island of Providencia, and portions of Nicaragua and Honduras. A hurricane watch was in effect for the neighboring island of San Andrés.
Possible life-threatening surf and rip current conditions could affect part of the coast of Colombia as well as portions of Central America.
Iota’s formation comes on the heels of Subtropical Storm Theta and Hurricane Eta. Bringing fatal flooding and landslides, Hurricane Eta battered parts of Central America when it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. Forecasters predict Eta’s damage could exacerbate Iota’s impact.
Although scientists have not definitively said that global warming has led to more hurricanes, there is consensus that climate change has altered the ways in which hurricanes behave, making them more destructive.
Scientists had expected an active hurricane season with up to 25 named storms. That expectation has now been exceeded, along with the record set in 2005, in which 28 storms were strong enough to be named.
After exhausting the 21-name list that was established by the World Meteorological Organization for the Atlantic hurricane season, meteorologists have resorted to using names from the Greek alphabet.
Mr. Feltgen said that “2020 had all the right ingredients to be an exceptionally active season.”
Marie Fazio contributed reporting.