Tropical Depression Eta, which slammed into Central America as a deadly hurricane, will likely gain strength as it nears Cuba on Sunday and goes on to threaten Florida.
Eta killed at least 50 people and 100 are missing, believed to be buried under mud, across Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, where it struck as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
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The storm will certainly gain strength as it moves north, and its top winds could reach 65 miles per hour as it threatens the Florida Keys on Monday, theNational Hurricane Center said.
“The threat of life-threatening flooding will continue across portions of Central America, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain,” Jack Beven, a NHC meteorologist, wrote in his forecast. “Interests elsewhere in Cuba and the Florida peninsula should monitor the progress of this system.”
Tropical storm warnings and watches spread across the western Caribbean Sea, including parts of Cuba, Florida and the Bahamas, the center said. More flooding, high winds and storm surge raising ocean levels as much as three feet could threaten the entire region.
If Eta makes landfall in the Florida Keys, or later along the Gulf of Mexico coast, it will be the 12th storm to strike the U.S. in 2020, adding to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that’s seen hundreds of deaths, billions of dollars in damage and a total of 28 storms.
The Atlantic has only produced 28 storms once before in 2005.
After it sweeps the Florida Keys Monday, Eta is forecast to meander into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and move north, parallel to Florida’s west coast, before coming ashore again north of Tampa later in the week, according to storm forecast models. Eta will likely stay to the east of offshore oil and natural gas production areas in the Gulf.
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