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Hurricane and Storm Surge Warnings Issued for the Florida Keys

Photo: Florida Storms

A Hurricane Warning and a Storm Surge Warning have been issued for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay ahead of Tropical Storm Eta.

Data from a Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to 65 mph and additional strengthening is possible during the next 48 hours. Eta could become a Category 1 hurricane before it reaches the Florida Keys late Sunday.

A Storm Surge Warning is also in effect for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay. A Storm Surge Watch continues for coastal areas from Golden Beach to Bonita Beach, including Biscayne Bay.

A Hurricane Watch continues to be in effect for coastal areas from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach. Tropical Storm Warnings were also issued in anticipation of strong winds and heavy rain that are expected to arrive Sunday. The warning includes the Florida coast from the Brevard and Volusia County line to Englewood including Lake Okeechobee. This includes the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples metro areas, along with all of the Florida Keys and Key West.

Eta was continuing to move towards the north over central Cuba early Sunday morning, and is expected to move into the Florida Straits by Sunday afternoon. A gradual turn towards the north-northwest is anticipated Sunday afternoon, followed by a northwestward turn in the evening. The National Hurricane Center anticipates the center of Eta to pass near or over the Florida Keys late Sunday night and early Monday before moving into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday and Tuesday.

By midweek, uncertainty remains too high to make a credible projection on where or whether Eta might make a second landfall across portions of northern Florida or dissipate entirely. However, confidence is high that upper-level steering currents are likely to weaken, thereby causing Eta to move extremely slow or even stall Wednesday or Thursday over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Flood Risk Highest in Southeast Florida

Inland freshwater flooding is still the greatest hazard from Eta in South Florida, especially across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties where soils are saturated and many bodies of water are already full from a very wet October. Pockets of heavy rain were already observed spreading over much of South Florida Saturday, well removed from Tropical Storm Eta’s main area of thunderstorm activity south of Cuba. The rain is only expected to become steadier and heavier Sunday night and Monday as the center of Eta moves closer.

Portions of extreme South Florida, including the Keys could accumulate 6 to 12 inches of rain by Friday with isolated maximum totals of 18 inches.

Rainfall accumulations in southeast Florida may exceed ten inches over the next three days, with 4 to 8 inches most likely near and southeast of a line from Naples to Fort Pierce, Florida. Lesser rainfall amounts of 2 to 5 inches are expected near and north of a line from Fort Myers to Melbourne, although uncertainty remains on how much rain may fall beyond Tuesday depending on the eventual track and strength of Eta in the eastern Gulf.

Sporadic Power Outages Likely in South Florida

Sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph, are most likely to arrive in southeast Florida near Miami and the upper Keys late Sunday evening. Winds of this strength are possible in southwest Florida near Naples by early Monday morning. Sporadic power outages from downed trees or power lines should be planned for in these areas when the strongest winds arrive. The highest gusts are most likely to accompany the heaviest rain bands, which could arrive well before the center of Eta passes nearby. If Eta intensifies further as it approaches the Florida Keys, wind gusts may climb up towards 70 mph.

Storm Surge Might Prompt Evacuations

A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet is possible from Golden Beach to Bonita Beach, which includes the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay. Residents near the coast and in the advised area are encouraged to listen to local authorities for possible evacuation orders to be given Sunday. A storm surge of 1 to 2 feet is possible farther north along the Treasure, Space and First Coasts. Coastal flooding is expected in these areas even though they may be hundreds of miles from Eta’s track due to the strong and persistent onshore flow out of the east-southeast. The uncertainties around Tropical Storm Eta’s eventual track and strength make a credible storm surge forecast across west-central Florida and along the Nature Coast not possible at this time.

Additional Impacts from Eta

Brief, fast moving isolated tornadoes will be possible from Eta across most of South Florida Sunday, then potentially for areas farther north into Central Florida on Monday. The tornado risk will be contingent on where the strongest rain bands move in association with the areas of greatest spin. Large waves and high surf are also anticipated from the storm on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, increasing the risk of rip currents at all area beaches. Swimmers and boaters are encouraged to stay docked and out of the water until Eta dissipates or moves away sometime late next week.

Meteorologists from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network will continue to monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Eta through the weekend, and frequent updates will be available via the Florida Storms social media accounts including the Florida Storms app.

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