AFTER ETA: OFFICIALS SURVEY STORM DAMAGE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

On Monday morning, Monroe County officials were surveying the damage of Tropical Storm Eta.

According to Jon Rizzo of the National Weather Service’s Key West office, the highest wind gust was 71 mph, recorded at the Carysfort Lighthouse, just east of Key Largo. Another unofficial report of a 58 mph wind gust was recorded at Rock Harbor.

“We received reports of winds gusting over 50 mph from Tavernier all the way up to Ocean Reef for several hours from about midnight to predawn on Nov. 9,” he said.

The highest reported rainfall happened at MM 106 with 4.78 inches of rain recorded.

Monroe County opened up shelters at Coral Shores High School and Key West High School. On the morning of Nov. 9, only one person was still at CSHS and 20 remained at KWHS. The shelters will be completely closed today, and the facilities cleaned, in preparation for classes to resume on the “B” schedule on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

According to the weather service, the eye of Tropical Storm Eta moved across Lower Matecumbe at 11 p.m.

In the Upper Keys, county officials said four homes had “significant” damage caused by falling trees. Also roadwork is needed at MM 110-111 where potholes have appeared. Florida Keys Electric Cooperative reported that about 1,000 customers were affected by power outages. As of 3 p.m. on Nov. 9, more than 200 customers were still without power.  

“A big thanks to our electric utilities,” said Monroe County Supervisor Roman Gastesi. “I’ve lived here long enough when I remember if it blew 25 and 35 mph, the power would go out for days.”

In fact, one of two main transmission lines into the Keys is down, but the utility said the Keys is well powered by just one. Repairs are expected to be complete by 5 p.m. on Nov. 9.

The worst flooding occurred in the Upper Keys on the Oceanside, as well as Barnes and Card Sounds and Blackwater Sound.

The rest of the Florida Keys experienced Tropical Storm Eta very differently. Like Rizzo predicted before the storm made landfall, the heaviest rains and winds were on the outer edges of the storm. As it passed over the Middle Keys, a hole opened up with little wind or rain.

“The winds were weaker on the south side of the system, as well as near the center,” Rizzo said. “A few thousand feet up, the winds were blowing 30 to 40 mph, but it needs strong showers and squalls to get the wind” on the ground. “We also had sprinkles and drizzle in the Middle and Lower Keys, while the Upper Keys experienced strong showers and lightning strikes. In fact, (mainland) South Florida’s rain totals were much higher — in the double digits.”

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