South Florida and the Keys woke up this weekend to the reminder that hurricane season doesn’t officially end until Nov. 30 (and Mother Nature doesn’t have to follow the calendar, either).
A tropical depression named Eta was upgraded to tropical storm status on Saturday, and started to mess with our weather. It’s going to get worse Sunday. The Florida Keys is already under a tropical storm warning.
“This could be a significant weather event,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at a Zoom meeting that was also attended by Mayor-Elect Daniella Levine Cava.
“We may experience extensive rainfall and gusty wind conditions ... through Tuesday, with sustained tropical storm-force winds starting Sunday,” Gimenez said. “Since the ground is already saturated with rain, flooding is a major concern, especially in low lying areas.”
Also under the tropical storm watch: Miami, Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, Perrine and Princeton, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
Also in the tropical storm watch area: Islamorada, Key Largo, Ocean Reef.
And Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach.
And West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Juno Beach and Jupiter.
Monroe County declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon.
The Florida Keys’ Mayor Heather Carruthers’ orders include mandatory evacuations for campgrounds and R/V parks by no later than 9 a.m. Sunday and evacuations of trailer parks, boat liveaboards, and people residing in low-elevation areas.
In-county storm shelters in the Keys, where COVID-19 protective protocols are to be strictly enforced, will be announced later Saturday.
As of Sunday’s 7 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Eta had 60 mph maximum sustained winds and was headed northeast at 12 mph. Eta was about 280 miles south of Miami. “Further strengthening likely through Sunday,” the National Hurricane Center said.
South Florida should start feeling Eta’s continuous tropical-storm-force winds (39 mph and higher) late Sunday night, although some high gusts might make an appearance earlier in the day.
What this means for South Florida’s weather
▪ Wind gusts of 25 to 36 mph began Saturday afternoon and will continue through Monday, especially across the east coastal areas of South Florida, the National Weather Service in Miami said in its wind advisory.
▪ Isolated thunderstorms are possible Saturday night. The main threat from these passing storms are lightning, heavy downpours and gusty winds.
▪ The rain chance is 70% Saturday with up to an inch possible in Miami-Dade and Broward.
The rain chances boost to 90% Saturday night and 100% Sunday into the evening, with tropical storm conditions possible.
Rain chance Monday is 90% before dipping to 70% by nightfall into Tuesday morning.
The Florida Key’s rain chances, as of Saturday morning, were lower — in the 70% to 80% range through Monday evening.
Peak rainfall from this system could be 8 to 12 inches.
▪ Waterspouts can’t be ruled out beginning Saturday and marine conditions are already lousy, with high, rough seas in the Atlantic.
▪ Tropical storm-force winds of 45-55 mph with gusts to 70 mph could be felt Sunday evening until Monday evening in South Florida, the National Weather Service said.
The wind could knock down trees, send unsecured objects flying, and pose a danger to those living in trailers.
▪ A storm surge, with 1 to 3 feet of water within surge prone areas, could lead to flooding. The window of concern according to the weather service: Sunday afternoon until Monday evening. Miami-Dade and Monroe could see three or more feet of storm surge.
“The situation is somewhat favorable for tornadoes,” the weather service said.
Mayor Gimenez said a shelter would open for those in need at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds at 10901 Coral Way, Gate 2 for residents living in mobile homes and low-lying areas, or for those who need refuge. County COVID testing sites have also closed on Saturday and will remain closed until the storm has passed and they are safe to reopen, he said.
Miami Herald reporters Gwen Filosa and Alex Harris contributed to this report