By JOE MARIO PEDERSEN and DAVID HARRIS
(ORLANDO SENTINEL) – A tropical storm watch has been issued for portions of Florida’s west coast as Tropical Storm Eta moves away from Cuba and is poised to make a second run at the Sunshine State after soaking South Florida the last few days, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday afternoon. The watch is in effect from Englewood northward to Suwannee River.
Eta is 90 miles north of the western tip of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is now moving at 7 mph after being stationary earlier Tuesday. Eta is expected to move parallel but offshore of the Florida west coast on Thursday and move near Apalachee Bay Thursday night and Friday. The storm could be near hurricane strength by Wednesday night or Thursday before weakening, forecasters said.
“Tropical-storm-force winds are possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast by Thursday afternoon,” forecasters said.
Heavy rainfall will continue across South Florida throughout Tuesday.
The system officially made landfall over Lower Matecumbe Key late Sunday before moving farther west overnight. But its outer bands with the worst weather were dragged across the state Monday, dropping more than a foot of rain on many parts of the state, flooding dozens of communities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Eta looks like it will stay off the peninsula, but should continue to generate rain into the weekend throughout the state, according to FOX 35 meteorologist Jayme King. Central Florida has low to medium odds of rain forecast throughout the week.
South Florida experienced devastating flooding throughout the area Sunday and Monday with 2 feet of water flooding the streets of a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood.
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, but by Tuesday those winds only extended out 60 miles.
Forecasters predict areas of South Florida are still under threat of flash flooding.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Theta, the first 29th storm ever named in a single season, continues to move east in the Atlantic.
Theta strengthened into a tropical storm and was moving east-northeast at 14 mph and was about 795 miles southwest of the Azores with maximum sustained winds of 57 mph. The storm is not expected to change much as it moves toward Africa.
Also, a tropical wave over the eastern Caribbean is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms. A tropical depression is expected to form over the next few days. The storm has a 70% chance of becoming a tropical depression or a tropical storm in the next five days. The wave also has a 10% chance of doing so in the next 48 hours. If it were to become a tropical storm, it would be the 30th named storm and receive the Greek letter Iota.
The 2020 season proved to be the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record with the formation of Theta over the weekend.