‘In the hands of God:’ Central America bears brunt of powerful hurricane Iota
By Wilmer Lopez
PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua (Reuters) – Hurricane Iota sent zinc roofing flying into the streets, toppled electricity poles and flayed palm trees as its core approached a remote Central American coast on Tuesday, the second giant storm to tear at the area this month.
Iota reached northeastern Nicaragua late on Monday with sustained winds of nearly 155 miles per hour (250 kmh). It is expected to weaken after moving westward into neighboring Honduras, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Puerto Cabezas, still partly flooded and strewn with debris from the force of Hurricane Eta two weeks ago, again bore the brunt of the storm. Frightened residents huddled in shelters and worried about food and their lives.
„We could die,” said Inocencia Smith, in a shelter in the town of about 40,000 people.
„There is nothing to eat at all,” she said, adding that the area’s farms were wrecked by Eta.
The wind tore the roof off a makeshift hospital. Patients were evacuated, including two women who gave birth during the first rains of the storm on Monday, and others in intensive care, Vice-President Rosario Murillo told a news conference.
About 40,000 people in Nicaragua have been evacuated to shelters, authorities said. Many coastal areas are at risk of storm surges of as much as 20 feet (6 meters) above normal tides. In Honduras, 80,000 people were moved to safety.
„It’s the strongest hurricane that has touched Nicaraguan soil since records began,” said Marcio Baca, director of the Nicaraguan Institute of Earth Studies.
This is the first time two major hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic basin in November since records began in 1851.
Iota was also the first category 5 storm of the hurricane season before losing a little wind speed off the coast to reach land as a category 4.
Even after weakening, Iota’s rain – with up to 30 inches (76 cm) expected – could cause landslides and more flooding across the water-logged region, the NHC warned, compounding the damage wrought by Eta across Central America.
Eta devastated crops and washed away hillsides two weeks ago, killing dozens.
„We are in the hands of God. If I have to climb up trees, I’ll do it,” said Jaime Caal Cuz, 53, a farmer in Guatemala’s southeastern province of Izabal. After taking his family to a shelter, he stayed to guard the house and their belongings.
„We don’t have food, but we are going to wait here for the hurricane that we’re asking God to stop from coming,” he said.
(Reporting by Wilmer Lopez in Puerto Cabezas, Ismael Lopez in Mexico City, Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City;Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Robert Birsel)
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — In a one-two punch, Hurricane Iota roared ashore as a dangerous Category 4 storm along almost exactly the same stretch of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast that was devastated by an equally powerful Hurricane Eta 13 days earlier.
Iota had intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm during the day Monday, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it weakened slightly as it neared the coast late Monday and made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 kph). It hit the coast about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of the Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi.
People hunkered down in Bilwi even before the hurricane arrived, already battered by screeching winds and torrential rains.
Business owner Adán Artola Schultz braced himself in the doorway of his house as strong gusts of wind and rain drover water in torrents down the street. He watched in amazement as wind ripped away the metal roof structure from a substantial two-story home and blew it away like paper.
“It is like bullets,” he said of the sound of metal structures banging and buckling in the wind. “This is double destruction,” he said, referring to the damages wrought by Eta just 12 days earlier. “This is coming in with fury,” said Artola Schultz.
Iota came ashore just 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of where Hurricane Eta made landfall Nov. 3, also as a Category 4 storm. Eta’s torrential rains saturated the soil in the region, leaving it prone to new deadly landslides and floods, forecasters warned.
“The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Iota is making landfall in almost the exact same location that category 4 Hurricane Eta did a little less than two weeks ago,” the Hurricane Center said in a statement.
Eta killed more than 130 people in the region as torrential rains caused flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico.
“This hurricane is definitely worse” than Eta, Jason Bermúdez, a university student from Bilwi, said as winds roared before Iota came ashore. “There are already a lot of houses that lost their roofs, fences and fruit trees that got knocked down,” said Bermúdez. “We will never forget this year.”
Forecasters warned that Iota’s storm surge could reach 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters) above normal tides, and as the storm approached that threat weighed heavily on Yasmina Wriedt in Bilwi’s seaside El Muelle neighborhood.
“The situation doesn’t look good at all,” Wriedt said. “We woke up without electricity, with rain and the surf is getting really high.”
Wriedt said Eta pushed the surf up to just behind her house, where she lives with eight other members of her family. “Today I’m afraid again about losing my house and I’m frightened for all of us who live in this neighborhood,” she said.
She said some neighbors went to stay with relatives elsewhere, but most had stayed. “We’re almost all here,” she said. “Neither the army nor the government came to move us.”
Cairo Jarquin, Nicaragua emergency response project manager for Catholic Relief Services, had just visited Bilwi and smaller coastal communities Friday.
In Wawa Bar, Jarquin said he found “total destruction” from Eta. People had been working furiously to put roofs back over their families’ heads, but Iota threatened to take what was left.
“The little that remained standing could be razed,” Jarquin said. There were other communities farther inland that he was not even able to reach due to the condition of roads.
Evacuations were conducted from low-lying areas in Nicaragua and Honduras near their shared border through the weekend.
Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also the first lady, said that the government had done everything necessary to protect lives, including the evacuation of thousands. She added that Taiwan had donated 800 tons of rice to help those affected by the storms.
Limborth Bucardo, of the Miskito Indigenous ethnic group, said many people had moved to churches in Bilwi. He rode out Eta with his wife and two children at home, but this time decided to move in with relatives in a safer neighborhood.
“We hadn’t finished repairing our houses and settling in when another hurricane comes,” Bucardo said. “The shelters in Bilwi are already full, packed with people from (surrounding) communities.”
Iota is the record 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. It’s also the ninth storm to rapidly intensify this season, a dangerous phenomenon that is happening increasingly more often. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said Iota is the latest Category 5 hurricane on record, beating the Nov. 8, 1932, Cuba Hurricane.
The official end of the hurricane season is Nov. 30.
Associated Press writers Marlon González in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Seth Borenstein in Bethesda, Md.; and Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.
Iota made landfall in Nicaragua on Monday night as a powerful and „extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge, forecasters said.
The hurricane, which had slightly weakened from earlier in the day, had maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and made landfall about 10:40 p.m. on the northeastern coast near the town of Haulover, about 15 miles south of where Category 4 Hurricane Eta hit just two weeks ago, the National Hurricane Center said.
While meteorologists earlier Monday hustled to put the rarity of Iota’s strength for November into perspective after it became a Category 5, it became clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe was likely coming for Nicaragua and Honduras.
Those locations are still reeling after Hurricane Eta made landfall Nov. 3, causing loss of life and extreme destruction of property.
The effects expected from hurricane Iota won’t be just life-threatening, but in many cases also unsurvivable for anyone without proper shelter.
Rainfall of up to 30 inches will result in deadly flash flooding, landslides, mudslides and river flooding.
The winds will be catastrophic with wind gusts approaching 200 mph in some locations.
All of that combined will lead to parts of the region becoming uninhabitable for weeks, if not months.
Hurricane Iota’s maximum sustained winds at landfall was 155 mph, and a Category 5 is for storms with 157 mph winds or greater.
Over the weekend, Iota exploded into a powerful hurricane when it became the 10th tropical cyclone this season to undergo rapid intensification. In just six hours, it strengthened by 40 mph. The definition of rapid intensification is an increase of 35 mph in 24 hours.
That is unprecedented for November. While „extraordinary,” „ferocious” and „gut-wrenching” are all words that would be used for a Category 5 hitting anywhere, the fact that it is mid-November makes Iota’s evolution unparalleled.
In fact, the second half of this record-shattering season has featured more strong hurricanes. According to Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who studies hurricanes, „The first 24 named storms of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produced 2 major hurricanes (Laura and Teddy). The last 6 named storms have produced 4 major hurricanes (Delta, Epsilon, Eta and Iota).”
In other words, the worst of this season has occurred after August and September, which are considered the climatological peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Then again, nothing about this season has been normal, with 30 named storms, which broke the previous record of 28 storms set in 2005.
Iota’s reaching Category 5 status makes 2020 the fifth year in a row to have a Category 5 hurricane, another record.
Climate change can be credited with producing more rapidly intensifying hurricanes like Iota (and Laura, Sally and Eta) that strengthen right up to landfall. Warming waters over time will lead not only to stronger hurricanes, but also to ones that will last later into the season.
Shooting stars will make an appearance in the night sky late Monday night and early Tuesday morning Nov. 16-17, with the peak of the Leonid meteor shower, an annual mid-November treat.
The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they should be visible all the way across the sky.
Some of the greatest meteor showers ever seen have been the Leonids. Some years, they’ve been a full-fledged meteor „storm”. The 1833 Leonid meteor storm included rates as high as an amazing 100,000 meteors per hour, Earthsky.org said.
„That famous shower had a major effect on the development of the scientific study of meteors,” EarthSky’s Bruce McClure said. „It’s one reason the Leonids are so famous.”
This year, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said that skywatchers can expect to see about 10 to 15 meteors per hour during the peak.
According to Space.com, viewers this year will see more Leonid meteors than in 2019, because the thin, crescent moon will be only 5% illuminated during the night of the peak. The less the moon is illuminated, the better the chance to see the meteors.
The meteors are actually leftover comet dust. They’re tiny pea- and sand-sized bits of dust and debris crumbling off the Tempel-Tuttle comet as it swings by the Earth. (Earth’s orbit takes it straight through the debris trail.) The dust and debris ignite when it hits our atmosphere.
As with most meteor showers, the best time to watch the Leonids is usually between the hours of midnight and dawn.
Some meteor-viewing tips from EarthSky: „Find a dark sky away from pesky artificial lights, enjoy the comfort of a reclining lawn chair and sleeping bag, and enjoy watching the swift-moving and often bright Leonid meteor shower. The new moon on Nov.15 guarantees a dark sky.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meteor shower November 2020: Leonids to appear Nov. 16-17
November’s top astronomy event is about to put on a dazzling display in the night sky — one of the most famous meteor showers in recent astronomical history.
The annual Leonids came to fame back in the 1800s due to impressive outbursts of shooting stars, but this year’s showing will be more tame as it reaches its peak on Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
„This year will be a typical year for the Leonids, which means about 15 meteors per hour,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. Like most meteor showers, it will be best seen during the latter part of the night leading up to daybreak.
Stargazers that spend Monday night under the heavens could spot a few extra shooting stars due to the waning Northern Taurids, a minor meteor shower that has a plateaulike peak around the second week of November.
|A meteor captured during the 2009 rendition of the Leonid meteor shower. (Photo/Navicore)|
This year will be a good year for viewing the Leonids as it peaks on a moonless night. Because of that, onlookers will be able to see the fainter shooting stars that would normally be washed out by the light of a glowing moon. However, folks will want to keep a close eye on the cloud forecast before heading outside.
Clouds will be of greatest concern for prospective stargazers across much of the northern tier of the contiguous United States and into Canada. The exception to this will be across parts of the western Great Lakes into the eastern Canadian Prairies where there may be enough breaks in the clouds to spot some shooting stars.
The rest of North America will have mainly cloud-free conditions for the peak of the Leonids, including some of the darkest national parks in the U.S.
Averaging 15 meteors per hour, the Leonids may sound like a run-of-the-mill meteor shower, but a few times a century, it erupts into a spectacular light show unlike any other.
„This meteor shower has produced the greatest known meteor storms in history,” Samuhel said. Accounts from people that have witnessed these incredible meteor storms sound more like a scene from a Hollywood movie rather than reality.
„In 1966, rates topped 100,000 per hour with up to 40 occurring per second,” Samuhel said.
Samuhel actually witnessed the most recent outburst of the Leonids nearly two decades ago after finishing a late-night shift working at AccuWeather’s headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.
„Most recently in 2001, it produced thousands of meteors per hour, which I witnessed. There were several meteors in the sky at once for a few hours through daybreak,” he recalled.
Other notable outbursts occurred in 1833, 1866 and 1999, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS). The 1833 showing was perhaps the most impressive of the bunch with observers counting 14,000 meteors per hour. The meteors were so bright and occurred so frequently that people were able to read books under the stars in the middle of the night, according to EarthSky.
|Two illustrations depicting the 1833 Leonid meteor storm. (Left image/Edmund Weiß, Right image/Adolf Vollmy)|
These jaw-dropping meteor storms occur when the Earth passes through a dense cloud of debris left behind by Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, the comet responsible for the annual Leonids.
Typically, the Earth passes through one of these dense clouds every 33 years, but that is not always the case.
The Earth may not encounter a dense cloud debris again until 2099, according to the AMS. However, when the comet returns in 2031 and 2064, there could be „several good displays of Leonid activity” with meteor rates perhaps exceeding 100 per hour, the AMS said.
Stargazers might want to keep their telescopes handy after next week’s celestial show. Just about a month after the Leonids, one of the best meteor showers of the entire year will occur.
The Geminids will reach its climax on the night of Sunday, Dec. 13, into the early hours of Monday, Dec. 14, boasting 120 to 150 meteors per hour. This is roughly two or three shooting stars every minute.
Like the Leonids, this year will be a good year for the Geminids as its peaking will occur around the same time as a new moon. So, stargazers may want to mark the Geminids on calendars now and plan ahead for an entertaining night under the stars.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.