Floridians now need to brace for Eta

Cyclone coming off Yucatan headed this way


IMMOKALEE — The National Weather Service provided a special briefing Thursday morning about the expected path and strengthening of Tropical Depression Eta toward the Florida peninsula, which the UF/IFAS immediately passed along to farmers, growers and ranchers throughout Southwest, South and West Central Florida.

Robert Garcia and Rob Molleda of the National Weather Service Miami/South Florida office provided the briefing via a PowerPoint presentation that they emailed at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 5 to Gene McAvoy, associate director for stakeholder relations of the University of Florida/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, in Immokalee.

According to the latest available information as of this morning:
• “Tropical Depression Eta is expected to reemerge over the Caribbean tonight and is forecast to strengthen into a tropical storm as it approaches the Cayman Islands and Cuba.”
• “Eta is forecast to approach South Florida late this weekend into early next week.”
• “There is a higher than normal level of uncertainty with this part of the forecast.”
• “The potential for an extended period of heavy rainfall and gusty winds continue to be the greatest threats for South Florida, with an emerging secondary threat of isolated tornadoes.”
• “The earliest reasonable time of arrival of tropical storm force winds for South Florida is Sunday morning.”
• “However, the most likely time this area could see tropical storm force winds will be late Sunday night into Monday morning.”
• “Potential for an extended period of heavy rainfall and strong, gusty winds will increase heading into the weekend.”
• “Saturated soils from recent heavy rainfall could result in the potential flooding.”
• “Isolated tornadoes are a secondary concern regardless of development.”
• “The potential coastal flooding, beach and marine threats are still being examined, and more details will become clearer as we approach the weekend.”
• The lower southeast Florida coastal metro areas from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties, already quite saturated from heavy October rains, are under the medium to greatest flooding potential ratings due to this storm, Eta. The greatest flood potentials exist from tonight, Thursday, Nov. 5, through the night of Tuesday, Nov. 10. Those areas contain “saturated soils due to recent heavy rainfall and flooding focused in the east coast metro areas,” the NWS officials said.

Six to 8 inches of rain are expected to fall across far South Florida and the Keys, and from Flamingo at the southwest tip through Homestead and Miami; and 8 to 10 inches or more for Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, the Palm Beaches on up to Jupiter.

Somewhat less flooding potential is expected in Southwest and West-Central, with lower rain amounts forecast as of now; however, the tropical system’s path could change at any time, and if it wobbles to the west, the normally worst part of the storm (the northeastern quadrant) would move along and take in wider swaths of Southwest Florida. There is higher than normal uncertainty at this time, however, that the forecast amounts could be exceeded, and in some locales, even higher rain amounts are possible.

Model tracks have not yet come together much, either, so Eta’s ultimate path once it emerges from Central America into the Gulf of Mexico is highly uncertain.

The next briefing will be emailed at 4:30 p.m. today, Thursday, Nov. 5.