Officials in El Salvador announced on Tuesday, November 17, that around 700 people had been evacuated and taken to shelters in preparation for Hurricane Iota, with the number expected to increase over the rest of the day. The evacuations were carried out in Bajo Lempa (Usulután department), Cuscatlán department, and Chalatenango department. Health teams and other personnel and equipment have been deployed or readied ahead of the storm.
Iota made landfall over northeastern Nicaragua on Monday night as a Category 4 hurricane and although it has since weakened to a Category 1 hurricane and is expected to dissipate further as it tracks westwards towards El Salvador, strong winds and heavy rains are forecast across much of the country in the coming days. Between 100 and 200 mm (4 and 8 in) of rainfall is forecast across El Salvador, with isolated areas receiving as much as 300 mm (12 in). The heavy rainfall could lead to significant flooding, particularly in riverine communities, as well as landslides and associated disruptions to businesses, transport, and utilities.
The country's rainy season occurs between June and November, which is also roughly the time period that corresponds to the Atlantic hurricane season; rainfall tends to peak in August and September. Although El Salvador has no Atlantic coastline, the narrow width of Central America at El Salvador's latitude ensures that tropical systems can easily maintain most of their strength while tracking westward into the country from Honduras and Nicaragua. Storms tend to flood low-lying areas and cause unsurfaced roads to become temporarily impassable. More organized systems, depending on intensity, can prove catastrophic in terms of tidal surge, wind damage, flooding, and landslides.
Those in affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, anticipate transportation disruptions, avoid areas directly affected by flooding, confirm road conditions before setting out, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities, including evacuation orders. Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.
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