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Hurricane Iota Becomes 2020’s Strongest Hurricane; Threatens Central America

November 16, 2020
Hurricane Iota visible, GLM CIRA GIF November 16, 2020

From its vantage point roughly 22,300 miles above the Earth, the GOES-East satellite captured this GeoColor and GLM lightning composite image loop of powerful Hurricane Iota making its way toward Central America on Nov. 16, 2020.

The storm strengthened into a Category-5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale on the morning of November 16 with sustained wind speeds of 160 mph. Meteorologists also look for signs of lightning around the eye, as in the image loop above, which is often an indication of rapid intensification. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane warning along portions of Nicaragua’s northeastern coast, where “extreme winds and life-threatening storm surge” were expected.

The NHC said that heavy rainfall from the storm could also lead to dangerous flash flooding across portions of Central America that are still recovering from the effects of previous Hurricane Eta, warning that flooding and mudslides may result in “significant to potentially catastrophic impacts.”

Iota is the 30th named storm, the 13th hurricane, the 6th major hurricane (Category-3 +), and the first Category-5 storm of the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. It is also the latest-forming Category-5 hurricane on record. Additionally, 2020 is the 5th consecutive season where at least one Category-5 hurricane formed in the Atlantic basin, and the first time since 1932 where a Category-5 storm formed in November. 

Hurricane Iota GIF GeoColor, GLM November 16, 2020

The GOES East geostationary satellite, also known as GOES-16, keeps watch over most of North America, including the continental United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Africa. The satellite's high-resolution imagery provides optimal viewing of severe weather events, including thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes.