Tropical storm Eta is tracking away from Florida after brushing Lower Matecumbe Key late Sunday night, but continues to send storm surge, strong wind and heavy rains across southern Florida, and is expected to wend its way back to southern Florida and the Keys by Saturday.
The storm’s winds had weakened to 60 mph, and it was moving southwest over the Southeastern Gulf of Mexico this morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Little overall motion is forecast on Tuesday and a slow northward motion is expected on Wednesday,” read a National Hurricane Center update at 10 a.m. EST. “On the forecast track, the center of Eta will continue to move away from the Florida Keys and south Florida today, and will remain over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico tonight through Wednesday.”
The wind field for the storm had nearly doubled from Sunday, with tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 310 miles overnight from its center, according to the Orlando Sentinel, but by 10 a.m., those winds only extended out 150 miles, the National Hurricane Center reported.
It’s the 12th named storm to make the landfall in the United States this season, and the first for Florida; Louisiana has had five named storms thus far, according to The Weather Channel.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the northwestern Bahamas and South Florida from the Brevard-Volusia County line to Anna Maria Island. This includes Nassau, Grand Bahama Island, the entire Miami metro area and the Florida Keys — tropical storm conditions are expected to occur in this region throughout the day.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Orlando Sentinel he was in frequent contact with county water officials about the struggle to drain the flooded waters, which has stalled vehicles, whitewashed some intersections and even crept into some homes.
The NHC has forecast the storm to continue to zig zag along its path and turn east, making landfall on Florida’s west coast by Saturday.
The five-day track show the storm either hitting more north, while others model Eta hitting closer to central Florida.
“For now, the official forecast track remains a compromise of these two extremes,” NHC hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart told the Sentinel.
The cone of uncertainty covers much of the peninsula.
Eta made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4 major hurricane; the death toll in Guatemala was at 27 this morning, and local officials in Honduras reported 21 dead.