- Rainfall from the storm could lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding in Central America.
- Hurricane watches are likely to be posted for portions of Central America by Friday night.
- Iota is the record 30th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Tropical Storm Iota was brewing in the Caribbean Sea early Saturday and is expected to strengthen and approach Central America as a major Category 3 hurricane by early next week, the National Hurricane Center said.
Once the storm nears Central America, it “has the potential to produce 20 to 30 inches of rain with a focus across northern Nicaragua and Honduras,” the Hurricane Center said. “This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain.”
Iota, which formed Friday afternoon, is the record 30th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Several Central American countries are still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which killed at least 120 people and left scores missing when it hit earlier this month.
“I am greatly concerned we may soon have another major disaster on our hands in Central America if this Caribbean tropical system pans out like we suspect,” AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
More:When will this relentless Atlantic hurricane season finally end?
The storm was located early Saturday about 340 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. There were no coastal warnings or watches in effect as of Saturday morning. Iota was moving to the west-southwest at 5 mph.
If it becomes a hurricane, as expected, it would be the 13th Atlantic hurricane of the season. According to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, only one Atlantic hurricane season on record has had more than 12 hurricanes: 2005, which had 15 hurricanes, including Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Elsewhere, the former Tropical Storm Eta was classified as a post-tropical cyclone early Friday, racing off the southeast U.S. Atlantic coast and bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to the Carolinas after blustering across north Florida.
Farther east, Tropical Storm Theta was centered early Saturday about 575 miles southeast of the Azores and moving east. It had top sustained winds of 40 mph. It was expected to begin to weaken over the weekend, the Hurricane Center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press