In Guatemala, at least 50 people reportedly went missing after the landslide buried houses in the community of San Cristobal Verapaz, while roads in other parts of the country were blocked off or washed away, AP news. Some residents were unaware of the impending storm, blaming the authorities for a lack of warnings.
Now a tropical depression, Eta’s structure was cut short after passing through Central America. It was emerging on the Gulf of Honduras in the western Caribbean on Friday morning, set to redevelop into a tropical storm while traversing hot waters. Cuba, South Florida and parts of the Gulf Coast may be facing a longstanding system.
In Florida, heavy rains and floods will be the main hazards from this weekend to the beginning of next week, although tropical storm winds can cause concern in some areas.
At 10 a.m. on Friday, Eta had winds of 35 miles per hour as it slid off east of Belize. The system is moving north at 7 mph.
On satellite, Eta was significantly stronger than on Thursday, when the system was limping on land. Now, intense convection, or active showers and thunderstorms, have created a tall and chilly cloud visible from above.
There may also be signs of air outflow upstairs, or the evacuation of “used” air in the upper floors. This is evident in the horizontal strip, or cloud cover, that is radiating out from the storm in its northwest. By removing air that is no longer useful to it, Eta will be able to increase its power by absorbing more air at lower levels.
Eta tracked northeast through Cuba and south Florida
Eta is likely to become a tropical storm again on Friday night as it moves northeast through the Caribbean. While much of the North Atlantic has cooled due to the changing seasons, the pockets in the western Caribbean remain warm enough to support Eta’s rebuilding process. The Cayman Islands is under a tropical storm warning, with total local rainfall likely to be 10 to 20 inches in the second half of the week.
The impending tropical storm is likely to pass near or just west of the British Overseas Territory late in the morning and early afternoon on Saturday, with mild winds and showers hitting the islands. Heavy rain and gusts of wind will hit western and central Cuba in the evening, where the effect of a tropical storm warning.
Some models said there can be a total of 10 to 15 inches of rainfall, the largest amount of rain that could fall in central Cuba. Cities like Sancti Spiritus, Camaguey and Moron could be partially inundated.
Seemingly intact but slightly damaged after it hit the ground, Eta will likely move across the water on Sunday morning, be able to track across the Florida Strait and experience rain and wind. The National Hurricane Center predicts maximum winds near the center of a hurricane may be close to 60 mph at that time, although the center may still be offshore.
It was a time when the uncertainty in the forecast spiked. We know that Eta will probably linger for a while, but not clear where. Eta’s tracks at some point would be bent westward around a high-level low-pressure system perched on the Gulf of Mexico. If the turn left earlier, the reorganized storm could pass through the Florida Keys into the East Gulf, but if the turn is too slow, it would cross the southern Florida peninsula and have a greater impact on Miami.
The National Weather Service’s office in Miami tweeted that “the likelihood of heavy rains and gusts of wind from #Eta continues to increase.” Occasional showers could start in South Florida as early as late Friday while the biggest rainfall is expected to last for the second half of Saturday through Monday.
Areas of South Florida can get between 5 and 10 inches of rainfall, with greater local rainfall.
Flood gauges are valid for southeast Florida from around West Palm Beach to Miami. The weather service wrote during a discussion: “The ground is still slightly saturated from the last October rains over the eastern regions of South Florida. “Therefore, it will not cause flooding in the area, especially in metro areas on the east coast.”
Gulf of Mexico
In the event that Eta enters the Gulf of Mexico next week, its magnitude will likely be limited – meaning the atmosphere likely won’t be able to support anything above a high-grade tropical storm or low level storms. That’s because the storm will encounter colder sea surface temperatures and the crucial move is the shear wind – a sudden change in wind speed and / or direction with altitude.
Anyway, it’s 2020, and the hurricane season so far has been filled with surprises. Eta’s forecast is likely to develop in the coming days.
Eta stunned the world on Monday night flirting with a Category 5 spot in the western Caribbean. In the past 24 hours, it had reached 70 mph, double the speed needed to classify it as “intense”. It was an unprecedented move towards the end of the season and happened only with four other Atlantic hurricanes with a year-round record.
This is the 28th storm to be named during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, setting a record for the busiest season ever observed. Another system will take us into undiscovered territory.
Jason Samenow contributed to this article.