Updated at 4:25 a.m. ET
Hurricane Iota has strengthened to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, as it moves toward the Nicaraguan coast, where it is forecast to come ashore Monday, making it the second deadly storm in as many weeks to hit the Central American country.
Iota is the 30th named storm of the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Eta, which made landfall in Nicaragua earlier this month as a Category 4 storm already wreaked havoc, killing at least 120 people in flash floods and mudslides in parts of Central America and Mexico before crossing Cuba and slicing through Florida.
As of 4:00 a.m. ET, Iota had strengthened and was located 25 miles northeast of the Colombian island of Providencia. It was moving west at 10 mph, according to the U.S.-based National Hurricane Center.
The NHC says Iota has the potential to bring catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and extreme rainfall to Central America when it makes landfall Monday evening as a Category 4 storm.
Forecasters said the latest storm could dump 8 to 16 inches of rain in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and southern Belize.
By Sunday evening, some 63,500 people had been evacuated in northern Honduras, according to official reports, with Nicaraguan officials saying Sunday afternoon that 1,500 people had been moved from low-lying areas of the country's northeast, including the inhabitants of Cayo Misquitos.
In Bilwi, where Eta made landfall on Nov. 3, residents were fearful that their homes might not stand up to the latest storm so soon after weathering the last one, The Associated Press reports.