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Florida Faces Hurricane Warning as Eta Strengthens

Brian K. Sullivan
·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- A hurricane watch has been issued for the west coast of Florida as Tropical Storm Eta’s strength intensifies.

Eta is set to continue moving north-northeast with the center of the storm heading closer to the southwest coast of Florida on Wednesday before continuing into the western Atlantic late Thursday or early Friday.

“Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 70 miles per hour (110 kilometers per hour) with higher gusts,” the National Hurricane Center said in a notice published 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday. “Eta is expected to be near or at hurricane strength tonight as it approaches the west coast of Florida, with rapid weakening expected after landfall on Thursday.”

Tropical-storm-force winds could extend outward as far as 115 miles from the center. Western Florida could also see between 2 and 4 inches (5-10 cm) of rain and flash and river flooding will be possible in western Cuba on Wednesday, the NHC said.

Eta poses a potential threat to offshore oil and natural gas production in the western Gulf of Mexico as it gets ready to make a second landfall on the Florida coast. It made landfall in the Florida Keys at around 11 p.m. local time on Sunday as the record 12th storm to hit the U.S. in a single year. Florida is the world’s second-largest producer of orange juice behind Brazil. Meanwhile, further to the east, Sub-Tropical Storm Theta has become the record-breaking 29th system of 2020.

Eta has already left a path of destruction through Central America and the Caribbean. It previously made landfall in Cuba early Sunday with 65-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rains. The storm killed more than 100 people across Central America last week, according to the Associated Press.

Neighborhoods flooded across several parts of South Florida, including Miami’s Brickell Avenue financial district, where several banks and investment firms have their offices.

Eta adds to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that’s seen hundreds of deaths, and billions of dollars in damage. On Monday night, Theta formed about 1,000 miles southwest of the Azores and is expected to drift east across the Atlantic through the next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

So many storms have formed this year that the hurricane center used up all the names on the official list by mid-September and has had to use Greek letters to designate subsequent systems. There is a 70% chance a 30th storm will form in the Caribbean Sea in the next four days.

For the U.S., Eta’s destruction probably won’t match the tragedy still unfolding across Central America. The U.S. economic tally will probably be less than $100 million in insured losses, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler for Enki Research.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared an emergency in advance of Eta.

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