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Tropical Storm Iota forms, and that’s bad news for Central America

Iota is unlikely to reach Florida the way Tropical Storm Eta did. But it could damage Central America the way Eta did.

Central America could soon find itself in the path of another hurricane.

Tropical Depression 31 formed Friday in the Caribbean Sea and quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Iota, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It is expected to continue gaining strength and become Hurricane Iota late Sunday or early Monday as it steams toward the Honduran-Nicaraguan border.

The tropical system was located 335 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and was moving west-southwest at a slow 3 mph, according to the hurricane center’s Friday 4 p.m. advisory. It was generating maximum sustained winds of up to 40 mph.

The forecasted path of Tropical Storm Iota, according to the National Hurricane Center's 4 p.m. Friday advisory.
The forecasted path of Tropical Storm Iota, according to the National Hurricane Center's 4 p.m. Friday advisory. [ National Hurricane Center ]

Tropical Storm Iota is the 30th named storm in a year that has seen a historic number of storms develop and strengthen at a rapid pace. That bests the 2005 record of 28 named storms, though that year remains the most deadliest and most destructive storm season on record.

Now 2020 has set another record: This is the latest time of the year that two named storms have existed in the Atlantic since 1887, according to Colorado State University hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach. Tropical Storm Theta is still in the northeast Atlantic and is expected to devolve by Saturday.

Iota is taking a path similar to Hurricane Eta, which on Nov. 3 made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 generating winds of up to 140 mph.

Eta is blamed for drenching rains, flooding and mudslides that killed up to 153 people and left more than 200,000 homeless. Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua bore the brunt of those casualties, many of whom died when a mudslide buried the Guatemalan village of Queja.

Iota could inflict “dangerous winds, storm surge, and rainfall” on Central America, according to the hurricane center.

After it devastated Central America, Eta took a spiraling course that saw it enter the Gulf of Mexico, regain some of its strength and reach Florida as a tropical storm early Thursday. Eta’s rains drenched Tampa Bay and caused minor flooding across the region.

Eta is blamed for six deaths in the United States, including a Bradenton Beach man who was electrocuted in standing water inside his own home and five flood-related deaths in North Carolina.

Iota is unlikely to approach Florida. In fact, the bay area should enjoy a pleasant weekend as it dries out from Eta with partly cloudy skies, light winds and a low chance of rainfall. Highs through the weekend will be in the low to mid 80s while lows should be in the 70s.

Come Monday, a cold front will bring even cooler weather, dropping highs to the 70s and lows down to the 60s.

• • •

2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC's tips for this pandemic-hurricane season

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

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