Tropical Storm Eta Lashing South Florida With Flooding Rainfall, Strong Winds

Published in 9 November, 2020

At a Glance

  • Eta is bringing rain, wind, storm surge and high surf to parts of Florida.

  • Eta’s long-term forecast track is highly uncertain.

  • Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys late Sunday night.

Tropical Storm Eta is tracking near South Florida, where heavy rainfall, strong winds, storm surge and high surf are expected to continue on Monday.

Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys at Lower Matecumbe Key on Sunday night at 11 p.m. EST. This is the 12th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this hurricane season, and the first for the state of Florida.

The center of Eta is now located just off the southwest coast of Florida.

Current Wind Watches and Warnings
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the southern Florida Peninsula from the Brevard-Volusia County line to Anna Maria Island. This includes the entire Miami metro area and the Florida Keys, where tropical storm conditions are expected generally through Monday.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for western Cuba, including Havana. Tropical storm conditions are possible in this area tonight and Tuesday.

All hurricane warnings and watches in South Florida have been discontinued.

Happening Now
Bands of heavy rain and gusty winds continue to feed into the Florida Keys and South Florida.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 310 miles from the center of Eta. That means a large part of South Florida could see winds gust to tropical storm strength (39+ mph) at times on Monday.

Parts of Broward County in South Florida have seen 10 to 16 inches of rainfall from Eta so far, according to the National Weather Service. The heavy rainfall caused road flooding in parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Sunday and then again on Monday morning.

Forecast Track, Intensity
The forecast for Eta’s future track and intensity remains highly uncertain.

In the near-term, we expect Eta to track southwestward toward the western tip of Cuba by late Monday and early Tuesday. That’s due to the steering influence from Eta’s interaction with an upper-level low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico, and an area of high pressure off the Southeast U.S. coast.

After that, Eta is expected to lose steering influences, meaning it will slow down significantly or even stall over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It’s possible Eta briefly strengthens into a Category 1 hurricane during this time from Tuesday into Wednesday.

Eventually, Eta may make a final landfall as a tropical storm somewhere along either Florida’s Gulf Coast or the northern Gulf Coast late in the week, as it finally accelerates ahead of an approaching frontal system. Eta’s interaction with dry air and/or wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico should cause it to slowly weaken as it approaches the Gulf Coast in this scenario, which is depicted in the latest forecast below from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

However, there are some forecast model solutions that never bring Eta to land again. In that scenario, Eta would track northward for a time in the Gulf of Mexico, then pivot back westward to the central Gulf, where it would likely succumb to the aforementioned dry air and/or shearing winds later in the week.

So, for now, residents along the Gulf Coast should simply monitor the latest forecast for Eta and check back for updates.

Forecast Impacts

Eta is expected to produce the following rainfall totals through Saturday morning, according to the NHC:

-Parts of the central and southern Florida Peninsula, including the Florida Keys: an additional 2 to 4 inches of rainfall, with isolated storm totals of 18 inches in South Florida.

-The Bahamas and Jamaica: An additional 2 to 4 inches, with isolated storm totals to 15 inches

-Parts of Cuba: An additional 3 to 5 inches, with isolated storm totals to 25 inches

This could lead to significant flash flooding in all these areas, with a threat of landslides possible in areas of higher terrain.

Flood watches are in effect through early week in parts of South Florida, including the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area.

Storm Surge

In general, modest additional storm surge flooding is expected in South Florida. Here are the latest peak storm surge values from the NHC if they occur at high tide.

It should be noted coastal flooding may occur through multiple high tide cycles, particularly on the Gulf side and in the Florida Keys into at least Tuesday, if not longer.

High Surf, Rip Currents, Storm Surge

The gradient between high pressure near the eastern U.S. and Eta’s lower pressure will generate gusty winds blowing onshore along Florida’s East Coast the next several days.

That will allow high surf and dangerous rip currents to continue from Florida’s East Coast to possibly as far north as southern North Carolina, peaking into Monday, but lingering in some of those areas into late week.

Eventually, surf may begin to build along the northern Gulf Coast later this week, depending on the forecast for Eta.


Tropical-storm-force wind gusts (39+ mph) could affect areas in the tropical storm warning across the southern half of the Florida Peninsula through Monday. Localized power outages and tree damage could occur in some areas.

Sunday night, sustained winds of 57 mph with a gust to 72 mph was measured at Carysfort Reef Light in the Florida Keys.

Parts of western Cuba could see tropical-storm-force winds by late Monday or early Tuesday.

Other parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast might see tropical-storm-force winds later in the week, but that will depend on the uncertain long-term track of Eta.

Here’s is a general timeline of the wind gust forecast for a few locations in South Florida.

Also, as is often the case with tropical cyclones affecting land, a few tornadoes are possible in South Florida through Monday morning.

Check back to weather.com for updates to the forecast over the next few days.

Central America Rainfall Flood Catastrophe
Nicaragua and Honduras have seen roofs ripped off of homes, trees uprooted, bridges washed out, landslides and flooded roads.

As feared, torrential rain from Eta triggered massive flooding in parts of Central America.

One of the hardest-hit areas was western Honduras.

Flooding inundated Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport near San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Water was up to the rooftops in parts of San Pedro Sula, Thursday. Video showed hundreds of people on rooftops and the second story of buildings waiting for rescue. Some had been trapped for 48 hours.

Water levels along the Ulúa River in western Honduras were said to have been 13 feet higher than the peak during Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Catastrophic flooding was also expected along the Choluteca River in the town of Marcovia, in southern Honduras, south of the capital Tegucigalpa.

(MORE: Eta Triggers Memories of Mitch 22 Years Ago)

One landslide in Guatemala reportedly claimed at least 100 lives.

Over 22 inches of rain was recorded in Tela on the Caribbean coast since Monday.

Some locations picked up over 10 inches of rain in one day, including Puerto Barrios, Guatemala (13.98 inches).

The NHC was forecasting storm totals could reach 40 inches in parts of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Eta’s Storm History
Eta is the 28th storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which ties the 2005 season for the most storms on record. It’s also the 12th hurricane of the season, which ties for the second-most on record for a year in the Atlantic.
Maximum sustained winds in Eta increased from 70 mph to 150 mph in just 18 hours ending 7 p.m. EST Monday. That’s more than double the criteria for the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, which is a wind speed increase of 35 mph or more in 24 hours or less.

At its peak late Monday and early Tuesday, Eta was the third-strongest November hurricane on record in the Atlantic by wind speed and just the fifth Atlantic Category 4 or higher hurricane to occur in the month. Paloma in 2008 was the last November Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic.

Eta was the ninth storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to undergo rapid intensification.

Eta’s central pressure plunged 82 millibars in 48 hours ending 1 a.m. ET Nov. 3, one of the largest 48-hour pressure drops on record in the Atlantic Basin, according to Sam Lillo, a NOAA researcher based in Boulder. Only hurricanes Andrew, Rita and Wilma had as large or larger pressure drops in a 48-hour period than Eta, Lillo found.

The small hurricane produced prolific lightning flashes in its eyewall Monday afternoon, one sign of its intensity.

Eta’s eye arrived along the coast of Nicaragua about 15 miles south-southwest of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua around 4 p.m. EST Tuesday. At that time, maximum sustained winds were estimated at 140 mph, a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, according to the NHC.

Eta was only the fifth Category 4 or stronger hurricane on record to landfall in Nicaragua, the first since Category 5 Hurricane Felix in 2007.

Winds had gusted up to 136 mph near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Tuesday afternoon.

The NHC forecasted a destructive storm surge inundation of 14 to 21 feet above normal tide levels near where Eta made landfall. This is roughly the magnitude of storm surge experienced during Category 5 Hurricane Felix in 2007.

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