Tropical Storm Eta Heads Toward South Florida After Strengthening


Tropical Storm Eta, the 28th named storm of this year’s busy hurricane season, has strengthened and is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rains and dangerous storm surge to the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Eta devastated portions of Central America, where it started Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane, leaving more than 50 dead in its wake before weakening to a tropical depression. The storm passed over the Cayman Islands and the northwestern Bahamas on Saturday and made landfall on the south-central coast of Cuba early Sunday morning.

It was expected to bring tropical storm conditions, including heavy rains and dangerous flooding, as it approached the Florida Keys and South Florida, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory issued on Sunday morning.

The storm could reach hurricane strength by the time it hits Florida, the center said.

A hurricane watch was in effect for the Florida coast from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach, and for the Florida Keys, from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for South Florida, from the Brevard and Volusia County line to Englewood, including Florida Bay and Lake Okeechobee.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the storm had expanded since it hit Central America. Eta’s zigzag path, steered by high and low pressure systems, was not uncommon for storms that form later in the season, he said.

Forecasters predict six to 12 inches of rain, with isolated instances of 18 inches possible, in parts of South and Central Florida. Tropical storm force winds were expected to arrive in Florida by Sunday night.

“We had some pretty heavy rain on the grounds here in October, so the ground is already pretty saturated,” Mr. Feltgen said. “We’re looking at the potential for a lot of urban flooding around here.”

On Sunday morning, the storm was 60 miles southwest of Camaguey, Cuba, and 280 miles south-southeast of Miami. It was traveling northeast at about 12 miles per hour with wind speeds of 60 m.p.h., the advisory said.

“We always say there’s no such thing as just a tropical storm,” Mr. Feltgen said. “You can get some very serious impacts from a tropical storm. This is a very big, very serious rainfall event.”



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