HAVANA – Tropical Storm Eta, which made landfall in Cuba on Sunday morning, has brought heavy rains to the central part of the island, with bad weather extending in the coming hours to the west, where more than 60,000 people have been evacuated from risk zones.
The center of the system moved into the island at Punta Colorados with maximum sustained winds of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour but heavier gusts.
Eta’s effects can be felt over Ciego de Avila, some 461 km east of Havana, as the storm moves to the northeast at about 19 kph, according to the most recent bulletin from Cuba’s Insmet weather institute.
In recent hours, some 219 millimeters (8.6 inches) of rain has fallen at El Jibaro in Sancti Spiritus province, causing the Majagua River to overflow and inundate a highway, and about 100 tourists who had been staying at Cayo Guillermo were evacuated.
In Sancti Spiritus more than 11,400 people are currently being housed in state-run shelters and individual homes out of harm’s way, while in the neighboring province of Villa Clara more than 42,000 evacuees were placed in secure locations and in Camaguey some 7,000 people in 15 communities near the southern coast were evacuated, according to Cuba’s ACN news agency.
Although no reports of damage have been received as yet, forecasts are for heavy flooding in the area around the mouths of the Zaza and Cauto rivers.
Presently, the storm’s track should take it across Cuba northwards and into the Florida Strait, after which it is expected to hit South Florida, with that zone bracing for its arrival as a Category 1 hurricane, after strengthening over the warm ocean waters.
Monroe County in far South Florida has opened a number of shelters with the requirement that anyone evacuating to them must take a rapid coronavirus test before being admitted.
According to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, at 10:00 am, Eta was located 380 km south-southeast of Miami with 100-kph winds, although those winds were expected to increase to 120 kph, making the storm a hurricane once again.
The storm is expected to pass over the Florida Keys on Sunday night and to be a Cat 1 hurricane by Monday morning, with storm surge in parts of South Florida expected to reach 1.2 meters (4 feet) and flooding lasting for “days,” according to local authorities.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency to facilitate preparations for dealing with the storm and in Miami evacuation shelters were opened to house those who need to leave their homes.
Meanwhile, Honduran authorities announced on Sunday that at least 26 people died and six are missing in the flooding brought by Eta as it passed over eastern Central America before making a sharp northeastward curve to head toward Cuba. Some 1.7 million people in Honduras were affected by the storm, with 65,900 rendered incommunicado in 68 communities and almost 27,000 evacuated.
Eta struck Nicaragua’s largely unpopulated northeastern coast as a Cat 4 hurricane last Tuesday afternoon.