In Guatemala, at least 50 people were reported missing after a landslide buried homes in the San Cristobal Verapaz community, while elsewhere in the country roads were closed or bulldozed. Associated Press reported. Some residents were not aware of the impending storm, and blamed the government for the lack of a warning.
Now a tropical depression, the ETA skeleton was shredded after being milled across Central America. It was appearing over the Gulf of Honduras in the western Caribbean on Friday morning and is set to evolve into a tropical storm as it passes over the warm ocean waters. Cuba, southern Florida, and parts of the Gulf Coast may face a stubborn long-term regime.
In Florida, heavy rains and floods will be the main risks this weekend and into early next week, although tropical storm winds may cause concern in some areas.
At 10 am on Friday, the ETA winds blew at 35 mph as they slid offshore east of Belize. The system was moving north at 7 mph.
On the satellite, ETA was much healthier than on Thursday, when the system was limping above Earth. Now, strong convection, or shower activity and thunderstorms, has created a mass of tall, cold cloud tops that can be seen from above.
Hints of overhead air flow, or the evacuation of “spent” air, can also be observed at higher levels. This was evident in the cross-section, or strips of cloud cover, that were radiating away from the storm on its northwest side. By getting rid of air that is no longer useful to it, Eta will have an increased capacity to condense by drawing in more air at lower levels.
ETA to track northeastern Cuba and toward southern Florida
ETA will likely turn into a tropical storm again by Friday evening as it drifts into the northeastern Caribbean. While much of the North Atlantic has cooled, thanks to the changing seasons, the enclaves of the Western Caribbean are warm enough to support re-intensification of ETA. The Cayman Islands are subject to a tropical storm warning, with local precipitation potential of 10 to 20 inches by the latter half of the weekend.
A tropical storm will likely pass near or directly west of the Cayman Islands late in the morning and Saturday afternoon, with high winds and rainstorms affecting the islands. Heavy rains and high winds will hit western and central Cuba by evening, as the tropical storm will be watched.
Some models indicate that precipitation totals of 10 to 15 inches are possible, the heaviest ones likely to fall in the central part of Cuba. Cities like Sancti Spiritus, Camaguey, and Morón can witness local floods.
Although it was likely intact but was moderately disheveled after hitting the ground, ETA would likely move back over the water on Sunday morning, possibly tracking across the Florida Strait and packing rain and wind. The National Hurricane Center predicts maximum winds near the center of the storm near 60 mph by that point, although the center may still be offshore.
This is around the time when uncertainty rises in expectations. We know ETA will likely remain, but it’s unclear where. The ETA track will be bent westward at some point around a high-level low pressure system parked over the Gulf of Mexico. If it took that left turn sooner, the storm of reorganization could pass over the Florida Keys to the East Bay. But if it turns very slowly, it will move over the southern Florida peninsula and have an even greater impact on Miami.
The National Weather Service Forecast Bureau in Miami tweeted that “the probability of heavy rains and high winds from #Eta continues to increase.” Scattered showers in South Florida could start late Friday, while heavy rains are expected during the second half of Saturday through Monday.
Parts of southern Florida can see 5 to 10 inches of rain, with higher amounts locally.
Flood hours are in effect in southeast Florida from all over West Palm Beach to Miami. “The ground is also still fairly saturated since the rains in late October over the eastern regions of southern Florida,” wrote the Weather Service in one of the discussions. “Therefore, it will not take long to cause flooding in the area, especially over the East Coast metro areas.”
The Gulf Of Mexico
In the event that ETA reaches the Gulf of Mexico next week, its intensity will likely be reduced – meaning that the atmosphere will probably not be able to support anything over a high tropical storm or a low-threshold hurricane. That’s because the storm will experience cooler temperatures at sea level and, most importantly, shear winds – a devastating change in wind speed and / or direction with altitude.
It’s 2020 after all, and the hurricane season so far has been filled with a series of surprises. ETA’s forecast is likely to evolve in the coming days.
ETA stunned the world Monday night when it flirted with its Category 5 status in the Western Caribbean. In the preceding twenty-four hours, it had fluctuated in intensity at 70 miles per hour, twice the rate required to be classified as “rapid intensification”. It was an unprecedented late-season move, matched by only four other Atlantic hurricanes on record.
It is the 28th storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, setting a record for the busiest season on record. One system will lead us into uncharted territory.
Jason Samino contributed to this report.