Eta re-strengthens into a tropical storm

Tropical Storm Eta
Credit: CNN Weather

Tropical Storm Eta continues to bring torrential rainfall and damaging winds to Caribbean islands Saturday.

Eta had made landfall along the coast of Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday afternoon. It brought more than 2 feet of rain to parts of Nicaragua and Honduras this week. Another 2 to 5 inches of rain is still in the forecast for Saturday.

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Eta is far from over and seems headed toward islands in the western Caribbean Sea and Cuba. It is located to the west of Grand Cayman Island and has sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 80 miles out from the storms center.

“Tropical storm conditions are expected by late Sunday in the Florida Keys and along portions of the southeast Florida coast, where a tropical storm warning is in effect,” the National Hurricane Center said Saturday afternoon.

Eta is also expected to bring heavy rainfall and storm surge to the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and Jamaica this weekend.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Cayman Islands, portions of central Cuba, the northwestern Bahamas, and portions of South Florida, including the Keys. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for portions of western Cuba and the east and west coasts of Florida.

Eta is expected to strengthen over the next 18 to 24 hours prior to making landfall across central Cuba on Sunday. Isolated rainfall totals of more than 2 feet are possible for both Cuba and the Cayman Islands through the middle of next week. These high rainfall totals could lead to life-threatening flash floods and landslides in areas with higher terrain.

A dangerous storm surge threat of 2 to 4 feet is also forecast along the coast of Cuba near where Eta makes landfall Sunday.

Eta eyes southern Florida

After passing Cuba, Eta is expected to track toward and potentially over the Florida Keys on Monday and then into the Gulf of Mexico. Eta will begin to impact southern Florida on Sunday, bringing with it heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds.

A Flood Watch is in effect for much of southern Florida through Tuesday evening, where 6 to 10 inches of rainfall possible.

“Recent heavy rain across the region has led to saturated ground and urban flash flooding could become a threat by the end of the weekend and into early next week depending on the forward movement of the storm,” CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared a state of emergency Friday as the county monitors the storm. Gimenez said the main concern, as Eta approaches Florida, is flooding. Storm conditions are expected to begin as early as Saturday night, according to Gimenez.

In Miami-Dade, the ground is already saturated from days of rainy conditions so “flooding is a major concern,” Gimenez said.

The county planned to open an evacuation center on Saturday afternoon for residents living in mobile homes, low-lying areas, or anyone else who needs refuge, according to a county government news release.

In addition to heavy rain, Eta is expected to bring dangerous storm surge to coastal areas of Florida. A storm surge of 2 to 3 feet is forecast from North Miami Beach to Marco Island, including Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. A storm surge of 1 to 2 feet is forecast for portions of the East Coast of Florida from the Flagler/Volusia County line to North Miami Beach.

After Eta passes southern Florida and the Keys, there is still uncertainty in the track into the Gulf of Mexico. There are a handful of mid- and upper-level steering patterns responsible for Eta’s seemingly erratic forecast track. Due to all of this steering, changes in the track or forward motion of Eta are likely over the weekend.