A community road leading to Puerto Cortes is seen after it was flooded by tropical storm Eta on November 8, 2020 in Honduras. Picture: YOSEPH AMAYA/GETTY IMAGES
A community road leading to Puerto Cortes is seen after it was flooded by tropical storm Eta on November 8, 2020 in Honduras. Picture: YOSEPH AMAYA/GETTY IMAGES

Tropical Storm Eta will hit the Florida Keys overnight, becoming the year’s record 12th named storm to make landfall in the US.

It is then set to drift west, build in strength, and make a second run at the Sunshine State north of Tampa.

Eta is forecast to pass near or over the Florida Keys and extreme south Florida during the next few hours, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory issued at 8am (SA time).

The storm has maximum sustained winds near 100km/h and it may strengthen to become a hurricane when it moves over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

“Life-threatening flash flooding will be possible across the urban areas of southeast Florida,” the NHC said. “Hurricane conditions” and tornadoes are possible in some areas.

Eta made landfall in Cuba early on Sunday with 104km/h winds and heavy rains. The storm killed more than 50 people across Central America last week and more than 100 others are missing after it struck that region as a major hurricane, according to the Associated Press.

If Eta makes landfall in the Florida Keys, or later this week along the Gulf of Mexico coast, it will be the 12th storm to strike the US in 2020, adding to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that has caused hundreds of deaths, billions of dollars in damage, and a total of 28 storms.

So many storms have formed that the hurricane centre used up all the names on the official list by mid-September and has had to use Greek letters to designate subsequent systems.

The official hurricane centre track forecast now takes Eta on a backward-question-mark-like path through the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Its threat to offshore oil and natural gas production will probably be low.

For the US, Eta’s destruction probably won’t match the tragedy still unfolding across Central America. The US economic tally will probably be less than $100m in insured losses, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller for Enki Research.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has declared an emergency in advance of Eta. In addition to Eta, forecasters are also watching another potential storm in the central Atlantic that has a 40% chance of forming in the next five days, the hurricane centre said.

Bloomberg

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