An enhanced tropical storm Eta roared across Cuba on Sunday with Florida in its sights after killing dozens in Central America.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Sunday morning that Eta was blowing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was about 280 miles south-southeast of Miami, moving northeast at 12 mph.
“Eta inland above east-central Cuba,” the NHC said in its latest advisory. “A dangerous storm surge, flash floods and high winds are expected to occur over parts of Cuba and Florida. ”
SOUTHEAST SEES RAIN BEFORE TROPICAL LOW ETA, NORTHWEST SEES MOUNTAIN SNOW
The center of Eta is expected to pass through central Cuba on Sunday before crossing the Straits of Florida. Eta is then expected to pass near or over the Florida Keys on Sunday night until the early hours of Monday.
The Eta is expected to be close to hurricane strength as it moves over or near the Florida Keys, with a hurricane watch in effect for the Keys as well as the Florida coast. from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach.
The storm isn’t expected to be a huge wind threat, but it will bring a lot of rain to waterlogged South Florida through Monday.
Parts of central and southern Florida could see rainfall of 6 to 12 inches, including areas up to 18 inches.
In addition to storm surge risk, Beta also brings tornado risk through Monday over southern parts of Florida and the Keys.
After passing through the Keys, the storm will linger in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for a few days, then the forecast becomes very uncertain.
Ahead of the storm, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for eight southern counties on Saturday “with great caution” as the storm approaches.
ETA MAY THREATEN FLORIDA AFTER CENTRAL AMERICA DEVASTATIVE WITH DEADLY FLOODING
DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.
Florida Power & Light (FPL) said on Saturday that it expects a “significant number” of customers in the southern and southwestern parts of Florida to experience power outages as the storm hits the State for several days.
“In some areas, customers could experience more than one outage as the weather bands move,” the utility said.
FPL said it was pre-positioning around 10,000 workers who could help restore power.
Residents of South Florida spent Saturday filling sandbags in anticipation of heavy rains from the storm.
“My garage needs sandbags to keep water out,” Miami Beach resident Annie Perez told WSVN-TV. “My ground is flooded even without a storm.”
South Florida experienced a recent rainy spell, which left the soil saturated and local authorities concerned about flooding.
“Flooding is a major concern,” Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said on Saturday.
Miami-Dade County declared a state of emergency on Friday evening and also warned that flood watch would be in effect until Tuesday evening.
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Eta was once a Category 4 hurricane before it hit Central America, and authorities in Panama in Mexico were still monitoring the damage after days of torrential rains during the week.
Torrential downpours from the storm triggered devastating landslides that killed dozens of people in the area.
Rescuers were forced to cancel their efforts in Guatemala on Saturday due to relentless rain that created dangerous conditions.
“We are coordinating so that all staff are evacuated in the morning because we cannot work there,” emergency worker Juan Alberto Leal told Reuters. “If we stay, lives will be lost. ”
Some 150 houses in a village were destroyed.
On Friday morning, the U.S. Army’s Joint Task Force Bravo rescued 11 people in Honduras, where devastating flooding and landslides were also reported.
In southern Mexico, across the border with Guatemala, at least 20 people have died as heavy rains attributed to Eta caused landslides and swollen streams and rivers, according to Elías Morales Rodríguez, head of civil defense for the state of Chiapas.
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The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the mountain township of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by a stream swollen by rain; their bodies were later found downstream.
Flooding in neighboring Tabasco has been so severe that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador interrupted a trip to western Mexico and traveled to Tabasco, his home state, to oversee relief efforts .
Rick Reichmuth and the Associated Press of Fox News contributed to this report.