Nov. 9 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys late Sunday, lashing it with strong winds, heavy rains and a dangerous storm surge after killing dozens late last week in Central America.
Eta made landfall at around 11 p.m. EST in Lower Matecumbe, Fla., as a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in a statement.
In its 4 a.m. advisory, the center located the system 70 miles north-northwest of Key West and 65 miles south of Naples and was maintaining its 65 mph winds.
The forecasters said Eta was moving west-northwest at 13 mph and should pull away from the Florida Keys and South Florida later Monday and be over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico overnight through to Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency Saturday for the counties of Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach ahead of Eta’s arrival.
The center earlier said the storm was re-strengthening while moving over the Atlantic Ocean, and was expected to be near hurricane strength by the time it hit the Florida Keys. A tropical storm’s maximum sustained winds are at least 39 miles per hour. A hurricane is at least 74 mph.
A hurricane warning and storm surge warning has been issued for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay. The center described the situation as “life threatening.”
The center says Eta is expected “to produce dangerous storm surge, flash floods and strong winds” over the Keys.
The National Weather Service Miami office predicted that Homestead to Fort Lauderdale could see 10 to 15 inches of rain through Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported.
A flood warning is in effect for portions of coastal/metro Broward, northern Miami-Dade and southern Palm Beach counties, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Florida coast from Brevard/Volusia County line to Englewood, including Florida Bay; Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas and Lake Okeechobee
A Tropical Storm Watch for Florida coast from north of Englewood to Anna Maria Island has been upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning while another Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.
In South Florida, a Hurricane Watch was discontinued from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach.
Monroe County announced evacuation orders for occupants of mobile homes and live-aboard vessels.
Florida Power and Light was warning its customers about outages.
“While uncertainty remains in the forecast, we are expecting widespread outages in parts of our service area,” FPL wrote on its website. “We are restoring outages as they occur. Please finalize your preparations and stay safe.”
Schools districts throughout South Florida have called off classes for Monday, including in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In addition, Tri-Rail suspended service Sunday, as well as county bus service throughout the region.
No South Florida airports are closed though some flights are experiencing delays.
On Saturday night, the Coast Guard set port condition Zulu for port of Key West, Miami, Everglades, Palm Beach and Fort Pierce, meaning no vessels may enter to transit within these ports without permissions of the captain of the port.
The Florida Department of Health closed coronavirus testing centers through at least Monday.
Eta made landfall last Tuesday in Central America as a Category 4 storm, leaving dozens death and a wake of destruction as it moved through Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with officials saying some 300,000 have been displaced.
In Guatemala, at least 50 people lost their lives to the storm and another 100 people lost their homes. In Honduras, people sought shelter on their roofs from rising floodwaters.