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Tampa Bay Area Within Eta's Winding Cone As South Florida Braces For Flash Flooding

National Hurricane Center

Portions of South Florida and the Keys are bracing for heavy rains and tropical storm conditions as early as this weekend as Tropical Depression Eta makes its about-face and heads toward Cuba.

That turn to the northeast is expected later today as Eta – which has devastated portions of Central America – retreats from that coast and approaches Cuba as a strengthening tropical storm.

As of Friday morning, Eta was located about 430 miles west-southwest of Grand Cayman and moving to the north at 8 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Eta’s track will take it back into the Caribbean on Saturday and back to the north on Sunday, taking it treacherously close to the Florida Keys early Monday with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

Forecasters say Eta’s winding track will then shift it west and into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday – with the greater Tampa Bay region within the cone of uncertainty.

“There are still unknowns with its exact track and forward speed, but Eta is expected to be large so there’s a chance of heavy rain and flooding Sunday or Monday with the highest confidence in South Florida,” said Ray Hawthorne, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “Gusty winds are also likely over a large portion of the state.”

Robert Garcia, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Miami office, said the Keys could see as much as 15 inches of rain. South Miami-Dade could get between 8 and 10 inches.

“We don't want folks to focus on the track or even the cone because the system is going to have a large enough sphere of influence that we're going to feel those impacts well outside of the cone,” Garcia said.

With so much rain in South Florida recently, Garcia said Eta could trigger flooding, depending on how much and how fast the rain comes.

“As we continue through the weekend, potentially early next week, a lot of these saturated areas are going to keep an eye out for the potential of not just street flooding, but also some flash flooding that impacts structures,” Garcia said.

Garcia said forecasters will have a better idea of what kind of rain to expect as the system moves closer.

Hawthorne said bands of heavy rain are possible from Eta, especially Sunday and Monday, with the greatest chances south of the I-4 corridor. He says additional effects are possible elsewhere in the state early next week, but it’s not possible to specify where because of the unusual uncertainty in Eta’s track.

Weather service forecasters warn the greater Tampa Bay region could experience deep moisture and strong southerly winds this weekend into early next week, with increasing clouds and elevated rain chances that will ease closer to mid-week.

Information from WLRN reporter Jenny Staletovich and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.

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