BOSTON • Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in the middle of Florida Keys overnight, becoming the year's record 12th named storm in the United States.
It is set to drift west, grow in strength and make a second run at the Sunshine State north of Tampa city.
The tropical storm made landfall in the area at around 11pm local time on Sunday and moved across Florida Bay, off the coast of south-western Florida, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said in a notice issued at 4am yesterday in New York.
The storm has maximum sustained winds near 100kmh and it may strengthen to become a hurricane when it moves over the south-eastern Gulf of Mexico.
"The storm has generally changed little in strength overnight," the NHC said. "Bands of heavy rain and tropical-storm-force winds continue over portions of the Florida Keys, and south and central Florida."
The storm "will have an opportunity to strengthen a little" over the next couple of days and it could become a hurricane as it moves over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, the NHC added. Eta previously made landfall in Cuba early on Sunday with strong winds of more than 100kmh and heavy rain.
The storm killed more than 50 people across Central America last week and over 100 others are missing after it struck that region as a major hurricane, according to the Associated Press.
Eta adds to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that has already seen hundreds of deaths, billions of dollars in damage, and a total of 28 storms.
So many storms have formed that the hurricane centre used up all the names on the official list by mid-September and has had to use Greek letters to designate subsequent systems.
The NHC's track forecast currently takes Eta on a backward-question-mark-like path through the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Its threat to offshore oil and natural gas production will likely be low.
For the US, Eta's destruction probably will not match the proportions of the tragedy still unfolding across Central America.
The US economic tally will probably be less than US$100 million (S$134 million) in insured losses, said Mr Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller for Enki Research.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared an emergency in advance of Eta.
In addition to Eta, forecasters are also watching another potential storm in the central Atlantic that has a 40 per cent chance of forming in the next five days, the hurricane centre said.