Hurricane Iota began whipping a remote coastal area of Nicaragua with catastrophic winds, storm surges and rain on Monday evening.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Iota was due to crash through northeastern Nicaragua’s Miskito region overnight, packing maximum sustained winds of 260 km per hour.
The NHC said having reached Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, By 7 p.m. EST, the western edge of the storm’s eye, or the “eyewall” had reached the country.
Central America and southern Mexico are still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which devastated crops and washed away hillsides after landing near Puerto Cabezas two weeks ago, killing dozens. Many towns are still partially flooded, and the land is waterlogged from the earlier storm.
Along with the wind, Iota will raise sea levels as much as 6 meters above normal tides. It is expected to quickly weaken inland, but will dump as much as 30 inches of rain over the next few days.
Earlier in the day, governments from Panama to Guatemala rushed to move people away from hillsides, volcanoes and bodies of water.
The World Food Programme said millions of people already urgently needed food aid in the wake of Eta.