South Florida is bracing itself for the potential impacts of Eta, which strengthened to a Tropical Storm Saturday as it made its way over the Caribbean and towards the Gulf.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday for Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.
On Friday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared a state of emergency, noting that the county would be opening its evacuation center at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds located at 10901 Coral Way, Gate 2 for residents who may need refuge.
"All residents should secure objects that winds could blow around, such as garbage carts, patio furniture, garden tools and toys," the mayor's office said in a press release.
A Hurricane and Storm Surge Watch is in effect for South Florida and the Keys. The center of Eta is expected to cross Central Cuba Saturday night, approaching South Florida and the Florida Keys throughout Sunday before passing Monday.
Eta is expected to bring storm surge between 2 to 4 feet and 6 to 12 inches of rain across Florida, including the Keys.
The city of Hialeah Gardens will be distributing sand bags to residents Sunday at 13601 Northwest 107 Avenue. All residents will be allowed up to five bags per vehicle. If you need further information please contact Mayor Yioset De La Cruz at 305-558-4144, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Opa-locka will also distribute sandbags to city residents between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, while supplies last. The distribution will take place at the Public Works and Utilities Department located at 12950 Northwest 42nd Avenue.
Sand leftover from Hurricane preparedness weeks ago was put do to good use during Opa-Locka's distribution. City Commissioner Alvin Burk said he loaded his car up for his elderly neighbors.
In Lauderhill, free sand for residents who want to assemble sand bags is now available at Veterans Park in the northeast corner of the parking lot, located at 7600 Northwest 50th Street. Veterans Park will be opened Saturday until 6:00 p.m., and Sunday’s hours are 9:00 a.m. through 6 p.m. People are asked to bring their own bags and proof of Lauderhill residency. The sand is available on a first come, first self-serve basis.
Eta will approach from the southeast and make that sharp turn and streak west across South Florida. The exact spot that turn happens will determine who sees a direct hit from the tropical storm and who is on the dirty side of the storm, which will bring the spiral bands of rain and wind, some brief storm surge and even isolated tornadoes.
The South Florida Water Management District said they are lowering canals and staffing pump stations and control rooms as they watch the forecast. They advised residents to secure any loose items that could clog storm drains or swales.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue also was reminding residents of safety precautions they can take.
"If you see standing water, whether it’s driving or walking or biking, it is never a good idea to walk or drive into flooded areas as water may be deeper than it appears hiding all kinds of hazards like debris or sharp objects," Fire Rescue spokesperson Erika Benitez said.