Tropical Storm Eta is now centered just a few miles northwest of Gainesville, after having made landfall at 4 a.m. Thursday near Cedar Key, Florida. The storm brought heavy rainfall and gusty winds through the center of the state early Thursday, with the threat of flooding along a path from north of Tampa all the way to Jacksonville and its surrounding communities. The storm packs gusting winds up to 50 mph, with bands of rain and wind across most of the central peninsula.
With a tropical storm warning remaining in effect for parts of north and northeast Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis expanded his emergency declaration on Wednesday, and asked President Donald Trump for federal emergency aid.
Eta is expected to track through northern Florida as it continues to weaken. It should emerge off the eastern coast of the state by Thursday afternoon and then transition into a non-tropical low-pressure system as it moves farther out to sea through Friday.
In the federal aid request, DeSantis pointed to potential flooding and complications related to sheltering people because of COVID-19. He also pointed out that areas along the west coast of Florida are historically the most vulnerable to storm surge in the entire state, and “prone to long duration coastal flooding that could lead to evacuations of coastal populations.”
According to the News Service of Florida, DeSantis made the request when Eta was at hurricane strength, but the hurricane center said in the 1 p.m. advisory Wednesday that the system had weakened to a tropical storm. At the time, it was about 115 miles southwest of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
The National Hurricane Center warned that parts of western Florida should remain on alert throughout the weekend for “minor river flooding.”