Iota, when it was still a tropical depression, over the Caribbean Sea on November 13. (NOAA/NHC/)

Since 1851, there have been only five major hurricanes that occurred after November 13th. We may be adding a sixth storm to that list over the weekend.

Tropical Storm Iota is currently developing in the Caribbean Sea and is expected to strengthen into a full-blown hurricane by next week. Should it reach that stage, it will be the first Hurricane Iota on record. (Hurricanes are named in alphabetical order, restarting with A at the beginning of every year. If more storms occur than the alphabet allows, then scientists move on to the Greek alphabet.) If Hurricane Iota occurs, 2020 would also tie the record for most hurricanes in a single season with 2005, which had 13, and would break the same year’s record for most named storms (a confusing distinction, admittedly).

This comes just a week after Hurricane Eta struck the same area of Central America as a Category 4 storm, then looped around the Gulf to hit Florida just this week. It was a devastating storm for Honduras and Nicaragua that left dozens dead and many more homeless as entire towns were wiped out by flooding and mudslides.

Now Tropical Storm Iota is lining up to hit exactly the same region. Meteorologists are predicting that the storm will rapidly intensify (a technical term for when the maximum wind speed increases by at least 35 mph in 24 hours) over the coming days. It’s an extremely unusual phenomenon in general—2020 has seen nine storms undergo the process so far—and especially rare this late in the season.

Hurricane watches are likely to go into effect on Friday evening, and the National Hurricane Center also notes that “life threatening flash flooding and river flooding” are possible through Wednesday. The effects are likely to be even worse because the region hasn’t had a chance to recover from Eta yet, not to mention the economic devastation already in place from the pandemic.

The hurricane season generally ends in November, so hopefully Iota will mark the end of the barrage of storms the Atlantic has thrown at us this year. But we can expect many more seasons like this as the climate warms. This may not be the last Iota in the history books.

By ASNF