November 6, 2020

Tropical Storm Watches Up For South Florida As Eta Strengthens And Lingers


It's been...quite the news week...but something that shouldn't get lost in the chaos is that the atmosphere is still minting storms like they're state quarters. Eta, the 28th named storm of this historic hurricane season, is still plunking along in the western Caribbean Sea. Forecasters expect Eta to regain tropical storm strength as it heads toward Cuba and Florida through early next week.

Hurricane Eta made landfall in Nicaragua on Tuesday with maximum winds of 140 MPH. The system slowly wound down as it lingered over Nicaragua and Honduras these last couple of days, producing intense winds and several feet of rain over a region that's exceptionally vulnerable to flash flooding and mudslides.


The storm's core, while degraded, made it back over the Caribbean largely intact, giving the system a leg-up on reorganizing and strengthening as it moves over warm waters and encounters a favorable environment. Tropical storm conditions are likely across the Cayman Islands and much of Cuba over the next couple of days as Eta heads north.

Forecasters expect Eta's rain and wind to reach southern Florida by Sunday and linger for a couple of days as the tropical storm hesitates a bit. A ridge of high pressure to the north and east of Florida will prevent Eta from moving out to sea—without a clear exit, the storm is forced to meander into the Gulf of Mexico. What happens after that, though, is something we'll have to wait and watch.

Wind

If the current forecast pans out, Eta will arrive in southern Florida with sustained winds around 60 MPH with higher gusts. That's a pretty stiff sustained wind—they issue severe thunderstorm warnings for gusts that strong. It's enough to bring down trees and knock out power. Folks in southern Florida don't need to be told to prepare for power outages and whatnot, but it never hurts to take a look around to make sure you've got enough food and batteries to get through a day or two in the dark.

Rain


The rainfall here is a two-part story. We've got rainfall from Eta and rainfall influenced by Eta.

The greatest rainfall totals are likely across the southern tip of Florida as Eta passes through the area. Some communities could see up to half a foot of rain where the most persistent bands set up. Rainfall amounts are contingent upon the structure of the storm and its speed when it gets there. If it's better organized and meanders for a day or two as predicted, that leads to better odds of greater rainfall totals than if it's disorganized or moves faster than expected.

The rain farther north—from the Carolinas through the Northeast—is influenced by Eta. This is rainfall enhanced by the tropical moisture pushed north into the region. Several inches of rain are possible through the middle of next week. Heavy rain might cause some localized flooding issues—watch out for drains clogged with fallen leaves—but it'll likely just lead to a couple of dreary, rainy days.


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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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