Tropical Storm Eta strengthened a little more Saturday evening and A Hurricane Watch was issued for parts of South Florida and the Florida Keys. At 10:00 p.m. EST on Saturday the center of Tropical Storm Eta was located at latitude 20.7°N and longitude 79.9°W which put it about 140 miles (220 km) west-southwest of Camaguey, Cuba. Eta was moving toward the northeast at 13 m.p.h. (20 km/h). The maximum sustained wind speed was 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 80 m.p.h. (130 km/h). The minimum surface pressure was 991 mb.
A Hurricane Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from Deerfield Beach to Bonita Beach, Florida and for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas. A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the portion of the coast from the Brevard/Volusia County Line to Englewood, Florida. A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas. Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for the Cayman Islands and the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Matanzas. A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Andros Island, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from Englewood to Anna Maria Island, Florida. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for Lake Okeechobee. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Artemisa y Mayabeque, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.
The circulation around Tropical Storm Eta continued to strengthen on Saturday evening. There were occasional infrared satellite images that suggested a small eye could be forming at the center of Eta. There was a ring of strong thunderstorms around the center and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms. Storms near the core of Eta generated upper level divergence which pumped mass away to the northeast of the tropical storm. The strongest rainbands were in the northern and eastern parts of the circulation around Tropical Storm Eta. Bands south and west of the center consisted primarily of showers and lower clouds. The strongest winds were blowing in the northern half of Eta. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 120 miles (195 km) from the center of circulation.
Tropical Storm Eta will move through an environment favorable for intensification during the few hours. Eta will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C. An upper level trough over the Gulf of Mexico will produce southwesterly winds which will blow toward the top of Tropical Storm Eta. Those winds will cause moderate vertical wind shear. The shear will inhibit intensification, but it may not be strong enough to prevent Eta from getting stronger. Tropical Storm Eta is likely to weaken when it crosses Cuba on Saturday night. The Sea Surface Temperature of the water north of Cuba is near 29°C. So, Eta is likely to strengthen after it crosses Cuba. Eta could strengthen to a hurricane when it approaches the Florida Keys.
The upper level trough will make a transition to a cutoff low over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico which will be the primary feature steering Eta. Counterclockwise rotation around the cutoff low will pull Eta toward the northeast on Saturday night . On its anticipated track Eta could move across Cuba west of Camaguey on Saturday night. Tropical Storm Eta will drop heavy rain when it moves across Cuba and flash floods could occur. The upper low will steer Eta toward the northwest on Sunday. Eta will approach the Florida Keys on Sunday night. It could be a hurricane at that time. Eta will bring gusty winds and locally heavy rain to the Florida Keys and South Florida. A high pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean will interact with the circulation around the northern side of Eta to produce strong easterly winds which will blow toward the coast of Southeast Florida. Those winds will push water toward the coast and the water level could rise up to six feet (2 meters). The strong winds could also cause widespread power outages in South Florida.