Eta makes landfall in Florida, again

Beachgoers shield themselves from the rain before the arrival of Eta in Siesta Key, Florida, Nov 11, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

MIAMI (NYTIMES) - Tropical Storm Eta made landfall on the west coast of central Florida early on Thursday (Nov 12), producing dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and gusty winds in the region, leaving tens of thousands without power.

Eta's landfall was its second time coming ashore in the state this week. It hit the central part of the Florida Keys late on Sunday and made landfall again at about 4am on Thursday near Cedar Key, roughly 210km north of Tampa.

The centre of Eta was about 128km north-west of Tampa and had maximum sustained winds of 80kmh, the National Hurricane Centre said.

The storm was expected to weaken after landfall as it moves across Florida.

A storm surge warning was in effect from the middle of Longboat Key to the Suwannee River, including Tampa Bay, the centre said.

By early Thursday, more than 30,000 customers were without electrical power from Tampa to Gainesville, according to Duke Energy.

Spectrum Bay News 9, a local news station, reported felled trees across the area.

In Tampa, Bayshore Boulevard was shut down because of flooding, and one video from the location appeared to show at least one car partially submerged.

Mr Nick Merianos, a meteorologist with Spectrum Bay News 9, reported that emergency crews were called to remove residents from mobile homes because of high water.

The storm's latest destruction came days after Eta soaked the central part of the Florida Keys and its strongest winds battered the Upper Keys and Miami-Dade and Broward counties over the weekend.

On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had granted his request for "a pre-landfall emergency declaration" to help mobilise federal aid to the affected parts of the state.

Eta is the 28th named storm and the 12th hurricane of an unusually busy Atlantic hurricane season.

Eta first became a tropical storm on Oct 31, according to the hurricane centre.

It grew into a Category 4 hurricane and thrashed Nicaragua on Nov 4, killing at least three.

Several universities in Eta's path cancelled classes on Thursday, including the University of Florida in Gainesville and the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The public school district in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, and the Hernando School District also announced that they would be closed on Thursday.

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