Tropical Storm Eta, the lingering former hurricane that hit Central America last week, lashed parts of South Florida with powerful winds, heavy rain and a dangerous storm surge Sunday after slamming Cuba, officials said.
Eta had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical depression, but it restrengthened to a tropical storm Saturday.
By Sunday night, the storm was 80 miles from Key West, Florida, moving northwest at 14 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Eta’s maximum sustained winds reached 65 mph as it barreled toward the Florida Keys. The storm’s center was expected to pass over the area Sunday or overnight, the agency said.
Forecasters predicted rain totals reaching 12 inches and a storm surge that could raise water levels by 4 feet. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in about eight counties Saturday, including Collier, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to NBC affiliate WBBH of Fort Myers.
Earlier, government officials in Cuba said 8,000 people were in evacuation centers after Eta struck there. There had been no injuries, deaths or significant property damage.
Eta hit Central America on Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane. Nicaragua was hit in some areas with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, causing damage to numerous structures.
Honduras attributed one death to the storm, that of a 12-year-old girl who died in a mudslide in San Pedro Sula, the main population center in northern Honduras. At least 559 people affected by flooding had to move to shelters or go to relatives’ homes, and 25 needed to be rescued, said Marvin Aparicio, director of the national system of incident commands for Honduras’ emergency management agency.
Eta was downgraded to a tropical depression after landfall but lingered in the region, where it caused a massive landslide Friday in San Cristóbal Verapaz, Guatemala. The number of missing and dead is estimated at more than 100 people, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said.