Tropical Storm Eta, the 28th named storm of this year’s busy hurricane season, made landfall on the central part of the Florida Keys late Sunday night, bringing strong winds and heavy rains to the region, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm had maximum wind speeds of about 65 miles per hour as it struck Lower Matecumbe Key around 11 p.m. on Sunday, according to Doppler radar data, the center said.
The storm devastated portions of Central America, where it started on Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane, leaving more than 50 dead in its wake before weakening to a tropical depression. It passed over the Cayman Islands and the northwestern Bahamas on Saturday and made landfall on the south-central coast of Cuba early Sunday morning.
Early Monday, it was about 65 miles south of Naples, Fla., according to hurricane center advisory issued at 4 a.m. Eastern. Forecasters expected the storm to move gradually into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday and possibly strengthen back into a hurricane once again before moving toward Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Heavy rain was expected for parts of Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas and South Florida throughout Monday, the hurricane center said, warning of tropical storm conditions across the Florida Keys, as well as Central and South Florida.
The Florida Keys and South Florida were experiencing heavy rains and dangerous flooding overnight.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Florida’s West Coast from Englewood to Anna Maria Island.
On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for eight Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. All Covid-19 testing sites in Miami-Dade County were closed in preparation for the storm until further notice.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the storm had expanded since striking Central America. Its zigzag path, steered by high and low pressure systems, is not uncommon for storms that form later in the season, he said.
Forecasters predicted isolated instances of as much as 18 inches of rain in parts of South Florida.
“We had some pretty heavy rain on the grounds here in October, so the ground is already pretty saturated,” Mr. Feltgen said. “We’re looking at the potential for a lot of urban flooding around here.”
“We always say there’s no such thing as just a tropical storm,” Mr. Feltgen said. “You can get some very serious impacts from a tropical storm. This is a very big, very serious rainfall event.”
The storm made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing devastation to portions of Central America with winds of up to 140 m.p.h. and heavy rainfall that reached 35 inches in some areas.
Flooding and mudslides contributed to at least 57 deaths in Guatemala, the country’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, said at a news conference on Thursday. One mudslide buried 25 houses and trapped dozens of people inside, The Associated Press reported.
Two miners were killed in mudslides in Nicaragua, The A.P. reported. In Honduras, a 12-year-old girl was killed when she became trapped in a mudslide.
The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression as it traveled over mountainous terrain, Mr. Feltgen said, but by Saturday it had strengthened again into a tropical storm.
With this storm, the unusually busy 2020 season tied a record set in 2005 for the most storms. That year, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma battered the Gulf Coast, and so many storms grew strong enough to be named that meteorologists resorted to the Greek alphabet after exhausting the list of rotating names maintained by the World Meteorological Organization.