Eta could bring tropical storm conditions to Orlando as early as Wednesday

Florida faces a second impact from Tropical Storm Eta later this week, but the path, along with the future strength of the storm, remains uncertain.Eta, the record-tying 28th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, moved Monday into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico after saturating the Florida Keys and South Florida with rains up to 10 inches in some areas and leaving more than 40,000 electric customers without power.But while those outages are expected to be quickly restored, it could be a day or two before it is clear how Eta will move through the gulf.“Here's the one thing I know for sure is that nobody knows what's next for Tropical Storm Eta,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Monday afternoon. “There's tracks that take it from north of Tampa, to all the way to Louisiana. “So, we need to keep our guard up, everyone who is watching this, who potentially is in the path. This is why we say, get your seven days of supplies.”The National Hurricane Center said Eta, which hit Nicaragua as a hurricane before heading toward Florida, could re-strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but the system could also be plagued by very dry air preventing rapid intensification back into a hurricane.The cone of probability Monday morning for the storm’s future path ranged from Pensacola to Fort Myers, with the center line moving the system into the Big Bend region southeast of Tallahassee early Saturday.“Eta could approach the Florida Gulf Coast later this week as a tropical storm, and possibly bring impacts from rain, wind, and storm surge,” the hurricane center said. If either reaches tropical storm strength, the 2020 season would surpass the record of 28 named storms set in 2005.

DeSantis declares state of emergency in eight Florida counties as Tropical Storm Eta nears

click to enlargeA state of emergency was declared Saturday by Gov. In some areas, customers could experience more than one outage as weather bands move through.”The utility said it was pre-positioning about 10,000 workers who could help restore power.The National Hurricane Center on Saturday issued a hurricane watch for coastal areas from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach and the Keys and a storm-surge watch for coastal areas from Golden Beach to Bonita Beach and the Keys. A tropical storm warning also was in effect, including for Lake Okeechobee.Eta was packing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and moving northeast at 16 miles per hour.“A turn toward the north and northwest at a slower forward speed is expected on Sunday and Sunday night, followed by a westward motion on Monday,” the Hurricane Center said in an advisory. “On the forecast track, the center of Eta will cross central Cuba tonight, approach South Florida and the Florida Keys on Sunday, and pass near or over South Florida and the Florida Keys Sunday night and Monday.”A tornado or two could occur Sunday night in the southern part of the state and the Keys, while potentially life-threatening surf conditions could be encountered during the next couple of days, according to the center’s advisory.The cone of probability for the system also indicated that Florida’s west coast and Panhandle could be affected by the storm later in the week.DeSantis’ order directed Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz to coordinate the state’s emergency plans and to seek federal assistance as needed. It also directed the activation of the Florida National Guard as needed, suspended laws that could hinder storm planning and recovery efforts and invoked what is known as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact with other states to coordinate additional resources.There was no immediate announcement of members of the National Guard being activated or coastal evacuation orders being issued.Also, to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, the order said the state will activate agreements with hotels for non-congregate sheltering.“Counties are encouraged to accept evacuees from other jurisdictions into their non-congregate shelters to allow for the state of Florida to practice safe social distancing measures,” the order said.