In a hurricane season that has already seen record activity, Hurricane Iota is making history as the second-most intense Atlantic hurricane to occur in November since 1932, according to meteorologists at AccuWeather.
The first Category 5 storm of the 2020 season, Iota is on track to make landfall in Nicaragua late on Monday afternoon, only miles away from where Hurricane Eta landed just two weeks prior. Eta was one of the five strongest storms to ever hit the country, and carved its own deadly path through Central America, affecting more than 3 million people and killing at least 200.
Experts expect Iota to bring “catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge, and torrential rainfall” to the region, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. The NHC has forecasted the storm surges to reach 15-20 feet, with 30 inches of rainfall. Many experts have pointed to unusually warm sea surface temperatures due to climate change as a factor in Iota’s rapid intensification.
While thousands are evacuated to shelters, the fear of contracting COVID-19 has led many residents to make a difficult decision. Silvania Zamora of Bilwi, Nicaragua, told the AFP news agency that "some of us prefer to stay and die in our homes” rather than risk contracting the virus.
As devastating hurricanes such as Iota and Eta continue to increase in number, quick and strategic cross-sector response is more important than ever. Innovative technology, better communication, and more robust situational awareness will help governments and emergency managers respond quickly and effectively to every disaster. As we are likely to see more storms with similarly devastating results in the future, it is of the utmost importance to engage new and novel solutions now.
Our thoughts are with the people of Central America as we continue to track this devastating hurricane. Follow Hurricane Iota's progress on NBC's live feed.
If you'd like to discuss Iota or any other active storms, visit us at the IAEM Reimagined Conference this week. We'd love to meet you and discuss these topics and more in length.