Travel Alert November 2020: Hurricane Iota to Impact Central America

If much of Central America is in your travel plans over the next week or so, you may want to consider delaying your travel — or, at least, keep yourself updated as to the latest information pertaining to the weather — due to Hurricane Iota, whose landfall is expected to occur somewhere on the northeastern coast of Nicaragua as a major hurricane as soon as just after midnight on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 before moving west into Honduras and then El Salvador.

Travel Alert November 2020: Hurricane Iota to Impact Central America

Hurricane Iota

Source: National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

Maximum sustained winds of Hurricane Iota — which is currently centered approximately 255 miles east southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the border which Nicaragua shares with Honduras and is moving west at nine miles per hour — are 100 miles per hour, which means that this storm is classified as a minimal Category 2 hurricane; and it is expected to continue to strengthen prior to landfall on the northeastern coast of Nicaragua, which is forecast to occur as soon as just after midnight, Tuesday, November 17, 2020…

…but two issues have exacerbated this situation: the forward movement of this hurricane has slowed down, which allows it to strengthen further over the warm waters of the western Caribbean Sea — perhaps as a potential Category 4 hurricane — and its predicted area of landfall is currently almost identical to that of Hurricane Eta, which means that areas of Nicaragua and Honduras which were devastated will be impacted again.

The landfall of Hurricane Eta occurred on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 shortly after noon as a major Category 4 hurricane in Bilwi in Puerto Cabezas, which is located on the northeastern coast of Nicaragua. Hurricane Iota is threatening to repeat what Hurricane Eta did exactly two weeks prior to its forecast landfall — and the impacted areas have not had a chance to fully recover before being threatened with another potentially powerful hurricane.

Hurricane Iota has a clearly distinct eye and symmetrical shape, which means that it is well organized and dangerous — and it is forecast to further strengthen significantly before its aforementioned landfall. The National Weather Service of the United States repeatedly uses the terms life threatening and catastrophic in this official public advisory when describing the storm surge, rough surf, rip currents, and flash flooding in multiple countries.

A hurricane warning is currently in effect for Providencia; the coast of Nicaragua from the border which Nicaragua shares with Honduras to Sandy Bay Sirpi; and the northeastern coast of Honduras from Punta Patuca to the border which Nicaragua shares with Honduras.

A tropical storm warning is currently in effect for San Andres; the coast of Nicaragua from south of Sandy Bay Sirpi to Bluefields; and the northern coast of Honduras from west of Punta Patuca to Punta
Castilla.

A hurricane watch is currently in effect for San Andres.

Much of Honduras and central and northern Nicaragua will be inundated with winds of hurricane force, a storm surge of up to 15 feet, rough surf, and up to 30 inches of rain over the next 36 hours, which may result in significantly catastrophic flash flooding in low lying areas and landslides in higher terrain.

Additionally, portions of El Salvador, Jamaica, eastern Guatemala, northern Colombia, Panama, southern Belize, and Costa Rica could experience from two inches of rainfall to as much as 12 inches of rainfall — as well as gusty winds of tropical storm force, rough surf, dangerous rip currents, and rising tide levels — over the next 48 hours. Electrical power outages are certain to occur.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

If you are traveling to or from Central America is in your travel plans over the next week or so, expect delays and cancellations of flights. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to this tropical weather system which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary.

Here are two airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result of this tropical weather system:

San Pedro Sula Travel Flight Waivers

Because the infrastructure at San Pedro Sula in Honduras has been damaged significantly because of Hurricane Eta earlier this month, here are two airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result — and San Pedro Sula will almost certainly be affected by Hurricane Iota:

  • American Airlines has issued a travel alert for San Pedro Sula for Friday, November 6, 2020 through Monday, November 30, 2020; and Sunday, December 6, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Delta Air Lines has issued a travel alert for San Pedro Sula for Thursday, November 5, 2020 through Wednesday, November 25, 2020; and Wednesday, December 2, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Spirit Airlines has issued a travel alert for San Pedro Sula for Thursday, November 5, 2020 through Wednesday, November 25, 2020; and Sunday, December 6, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.

Summary

The year 2020 is now the most active year in recorded history in terms of 30 total named tropical systems because of Hurricane Iota.

Should Hurricane Iota maintain its tropical characteristics and strengthen once it is forecast to continue west from the coast of El Salvador over the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, its name will change — even though it is the same storm — because it will be in the Eastern Pacific Ocean basin instead of the Atlantic Ocean basin. I believe that the name should remain the same and not change.

Also, I personally believe that the National Weather Service of the United States and other official weather authorities should consider using the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z to name tropical systems — especially with the inclusion of names which are not common in the United States. Quincy, Ursula, Xavier, Yvonne, and Zachary all come immediately to my mind to name storms which usually do not require those letters during a typical season. Only once the entire alphabet has been exhausted should the characters of the Greek alphabet be used…

…and ironically, the Greek alphabet uses a name which begins with the letter Z. Why not use one of the aforementioned names which begin with the letter Z?

As far as I know, the name of a tropical system after a character of the Greek alphabet has never been retired. What happens if a storm is strong enough to warrant the name being retired and it is named after a character of the Greek alphabet?

Anyway, do not be surprised if more travel alerts are issued by more airlines as Hurricane Iota progresses over the coming days.

Be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

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