Eta caused debris and downed lines

A large billboard came crashing down along U.S. 1 in Key Largo. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

With maximum wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph, tropical storms can at times pack some serious punch — look no further than Tropical Storm Eta. 

Originally a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall near Nicaragua, Eta produced heavy rainfall in Central America before making its way through the western Caribbean. Maximum sustained winds went from 70 mph to 150 mph in 18 hours on Nov. 2. 

Barreling into the Upper Keys and making landfall on Lower Matecumbe Key on the evening of Nov. 8, winds exceeding 60 mph downed large limbs onto roads and homes in Key Largo. Brush littered the streets as residents woke up to Eta’s aftermath the following morning. Rainfall  turned Pink Plaza in Key Largo into a pool. Further south, a large billboard along U.S. 1 came crashing down onto power lines. 

Key Largo took the brunt of the damage from Eta as the community piled debris alongside the road for pickup. Islamorada suffered only minor damage, and the rest of the island chain witnessed minimal damage from the rain and wind. 

Miami-Dade and Broward counties were hit hardest from Eta as rain brought 15-20 inches of water, according to the National Weather Service. 

Eta’s wicked winds brought down several large trees, including one that came crashing onto Dylan Deese’s Key Largo residence on the evening of Nov. 8. He was enjoying what he calls a “normal Sunday night” watching “Ocean’s 11” on his couch when he saw a tree “coming through the door.” Then his roof came down and pinned him under debris for a minute.

Deese and his dog, Aries, got lucky – really lucky. The only part of the house that wasn’t smashed by the enormous tree happened to
be the spot Deese was sitting in. 

Branches and leaves line the streets in Key Largo after Tropical Storm Eta. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

“The wind was still ripping. I didn’t sleep at all,” Deese said. 

Deese suffered minor injuries to his head. Deese eventually received 13 staples at Mariners Hospital. Aries was found hiding under the island in his home. “I feel seriously blessed to still be here and to have my dog,” Deese said. 

One gumbo limbo limb fell from Corey and Peg Bryan’s property at the corner of Biscayne Drive and Bonita Avenue, while other limbs fell across the street. Virgil Valdes, who lives across the street from the Bryans, recalled the moment he heard the gumbo limbo limb crash from the Bryans’ property. 

“We heard a noise, and I came out and thought something landed on the car. As I came out and looked (across the street), all that just came crashing down,” he said.

Eta was the 28th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the 12th hurricane of the season. 

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.