Flood rescue
Police candidate Ernahi Pineda braves Hurricane Eta's floodwaters on the Cececapa River in Santa Barbara, Honduras, to rescue 14 people trapped by the flood on November 6, 2020. The rescue was successful. (Image credit: Policia Nacional de Honduras)

A Tropical Storm Warning is up for South Florida, the Florida Keys, the Cayman Islands, and portions of the Bahamas and Cuba as a strengthening Tropical Storm Eta heads east-northeast across the western Caribbean.

At 10 a.m. EST Saturday, November 7, Eta was a tropical storm with 50 mph winds and a central pressure of 996 mb, speeding east-northeast at 17 mph. Satellite images and Cayman Islands radar showed that Eta had become much more organized, with a solid area of heavy thunderstorms and increased low-level spiral bands that were growing more organized. Data from an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft late Saturday morning showed surface winds in the storm ramping up. Eta brought sustained winds of 40 mph and heavy rain to Grand Cayman Island on Saturday morning.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Radar image of Tropical Storm Eta at 9:45 a.m. EST November 7. (Image credit: Cayman Islands National Weather Service)

Forecast for Eta

A trough of low pressure to its west will continue steering Eta to the northeast through Sunday, resulting in a landfall on the central coast of Cuba on Saturday night or Sunday morning. On Sunday, the southern end of the upper-level trough will be detaching from the jet stream over the eastern Gulf, and Eta and the trough will be merging or rotating around each other on Sunday and Monday, leading Eta to move northwest or west-northwest. Interaction with the trough could give Eta a brief shot of upper-level support and lead to some intensification over the warm waters of the Florida Straits. The interaction may also foster the intrusion of dry air into the west side of Eta, making it take on subtropical characteristics, and limiting its potential to intensify into a hurricane.

Steering currents will be weak once Eta merges with the upper level trough, and it’s not yet clear whether Eta’s long-range path might end up closer to the west coast of Florida, as suggested by the GFS model, or further offshore, as in the European model. Eventually – maybe not until late next week – the approach of a new upper-level trough will likely push Eta back toward the Florida Gulf Coast.

The main threat from Eta: Torrential rains and floods

Regardless of whether or not Eta makes landfall in Florida, the storm will bring heavy rains and strong winds well to the east of its center, resulting in several days of squally weather and locally torrential rain for South Florida. Rainfall of 5-10″, with some totals up to 15″, could fall in the coastal cities of South Florida from Fort Myers and Naples to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where soils are largely saturated from late-October rains. A flood watch is in effect from Friday night into Tuesday over metro areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Tornadoes will also be possible in Eta’s rainbands.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Seven-day precipitation estimate for October 30 – November 5, using data from rain gauges, satellites, radar, and computer model forecasts. Eta became a tropical depression on October 31, and during the subsequent week brought heavy rains in excess of 20 inches (orange colors) to portions of Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and Costa Rica. (Image credit: NOAA/CPC)

A catastrophe in Central America

Dozens of people died in Central America, and dozens more remained missing on Saturday from destructive floods and mudslides from Eta, which made landfall in northeastern Nicaragua on November 3 as a category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. The death toll remained uncertain, as rescuers were challenged to reach some of the hardest-hit locations.

Some of the worst damage from Eta occurred on Wednesday and Thursday as the storm weakened to depression status and its rains shifted northwest into Guatemala, where thousands were reported marooned on Saturday.

More than 150 people were dead or missing across Guatemala in the wake of Eta, AFP, the French wire service, reported on Friday. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said that a preliminary survey found 100 people killed and 150 homes buried in a mudslide that inundated the village of Queja in the San Cristobal Verapraz area. More than 1,000 homes were damaged across Guatemala, according to a report from the news agency EFE. Eta’s floods and landslides have also led to at least 13 deaths in Honduras and two in Nicaragua, with eight people missing in Panama, according to AP and the Weather Channel.

Also see: How climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous

With the death toll relatively low so far in Honduras, when compared to similar slow-moving hurricanes like Mitch of 1998 and Fifi of 1974 which killed over 8,000 people each, Eta left behind catastrophic devastation in Honduras, a nation with few resources. Seven-day rainfall estimates from NOAA indicated that Eta dumped over 20 inches of rain along the northwest coast of Honduras, causing destructive flooding that destroyed many roads and bridges, isolating thousands of people. Over 400,000 people were made homeless in Honduras, and Eta could cost 20% of the nation’s GDP, according to one Honduras economist.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Posted on November 7, 2020(12:58pm EST)

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

73 replies on “Eta regains tropical storm status, heads for Florida after causing devastation in Central America”

  1. Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #5 – 21:00 PM JST November 8 2020
    South China Sea

    At 12:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (1004 hPa) located at 12.7N 118.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving west northwest at 15 knots.

    Dvorak Intensity: T1.5

    Forecast and Intensity
    12 HRS: 12.6N 115.1E – 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    24 HRS: 12.5N 112.7E – 45 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    48 HRS: 12.7N 108.6E – 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) Over land Vietnam
    72 HRS: 12.7N 102.9E – Tropical Depression over land Cambodia


    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #1 – 21:00 PM JST November 8 2020
    Caroline Islands

    At 12:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression (1008 hPa) located at 8.8N 133.8E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving northwest slowly.

    Dvorak Intensity:

    Forecast and Intensity
    24 HRS: 12.7N 130.6E – 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) Sea East of the Philippines
    48 HRS: 14.1N 127.8E – 50 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) Sea East of the Philippines
    72 HRS: 14.2N 124.4E – 65 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) Sea East of the Philippines

  2. As prepared as can be here in big pine key. Not expecting much, but mother nature will do her thing so never know.

  3. Man we’re getting crushed by tropical storm out of here on the coast and East Central Florida there’s a live shot of how bad it is

  4. Hello

    Can someone provide the link to the disquis comment forum for weather underground? I lost all my bookmarks due to a new laptop

    1. I had the link bookmarked, but for some reason it just brings up a blank page. I can’t see anyone posting the official ‘bye bye WU’, but there’s not many posters I readily recognize. So, anyone???

  5. All the weather stations forecasting 25 to 45 mile-an-hour winds 4 to 6 in of rain here in East Central Florida and here’s our outcome as usua. 13th bust this season

  6. Here’s the updated latest model runs on eta as you can see the central Florida Shield Dome holds strong the storm moves way south and west of Florida comes up and it goes way north of Central Florida

  7. 80s putting on a spectacular Sunny event here in Central Florida I don’t know if we can handle any more rain it’s been crazy here Sun blazing hot people are laying out by their pools what storm is coming another bust

  8. Just checking in on conversation about Eta. I liked the outdoor furniture photo! I’ve been hanging around these comments for a long time, and I want to say that even when a storm is a “bust,” I appreciate the experts and enthusiasts who help us prepare. I’d rather be ready than be surprised. I’ve lived in FL since 1970 and been through some awful storms. I agree sometimes there is hype and the models are all over the place, but such is the challenge of trying to measure and understand the vast natural phenomena that make up this planet. Disagreement fosters discovery but civility is important.

    1. Very well said.

      Disagreement fosters discovery but civility is important.

      lived in Fl since 59 Memories of Dora.

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