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Tropical Storm Eta brings rain, flash flooding to Florida; could strengthen into hurricane

"It was raining harder than any Category 4 hurricane we have had," one resident said.
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Tropical Storm Eta swamped huge swaths of South Florida on Monday before moving into the Gulf of Mexico, where it is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane.

Officials in Miami said that some areas of the city saw major flooding and downed trees, though there were no reports of injuries or deaths.

More than 11,000 homes and businesses lost power, Mayor Francis Suarez said. By Monday afternoon that number had dropped to roughly 1,600, he said.

Eta made landfall late Sunday over the Florida Keys and, as of a 7 p.m. government forecast, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as it moved over the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was 110 miles from the Western tip of Cuba.

Images showed flooded roads and homes across the region. Alex Muriel, 45, of Hialeah, north of Miami, said the storm was among the worst he'd experienced in decades. Muriel was awakened by an alert on his phone at 5 a.m. and saw the water had topped the tires of his car.

"It was raining harder than any Category 4 hurricane we have had," he told NBC News.

In Fort Lauderdale, Suzie Montero told NBC Miami that her family escaped their flooded home with a few belongings, but appeared to get shocked as they tried to escape.

"I was scared because my kids were in the water," she told the station. "All our clothes are floating. We lost everything really."

Forecasters had expected seven to 11 inches of rain around Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The most powerful winds recorded after Eta arrived at U.S. shores was a 71 mph gust at Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys, but precipitation was worst overnight to the north and east of the storm's eye.

Rain was forecast for much of the state Monday, with two to four inches predicted with some areas expecting up to 18 inches, with isolated tornadoes.

Later in the week, there is more uncertainty about what track Eta will take. The current forecast meanders Eta around the Gulf through late week before potentially making a second landfall along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida late Friday into early Saturday.

The storm is part of a record-shattering 2020 hurricane season. It is the 12th named storm to make landfall on the continental United States; the previous record was nine. And Eta is Florida's first November tropical storm landfall since 1998.

Eta carved a deadly path across Central America after it made landfall Tuesday as a Category 4 Hurricane. Nicaragua recorded 140 mph winds and structural damage to buildings.

Over 100 people are reported missing in Guatemala and 27 are confirmed dead, and local authorities in Honduras say 21 have died in that country.

Twenty people were reported dead in southern Mexico.