Tropical storm Eta is turning north and heading for the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the storm is expected to deliver a second soaking blow to the state, having caused flash flooding further south in its initial path.
Tropical storm Eta’s journey around the Caribbean, Florida straits and Gulf of Mexico has been a long one, having at one time been the strongest Atlantic storm of this now record-setting 2020 season.
Update: Eta has once again become hurricane Eta, as the storm’s winds intensified in the Gulf and it achieved maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, with higher gusts. Eta is still forecast to weaken to a tropical storm again before making its second landfall in Florida, but the chances of slightly higher winds may have risen now.
Having slammer Nicaragua and Central America, Eta then almost dissipated but turned for the Cayman Islands and Cuba, almost regaining hurricane strength and then cross the Straits of Florida to make landfall in the Keys and soak the southern part of the Peninsula.
Next, tropical storm Eta spun back out into the Gulf of Mexico, weakened for a time but then began to re-intensify to currently have 70 mph sustained winds and stronger gusts.
A little further strengthening is now forecast as Eta travels north, with the NHC warning that “Eta could be near hurricane strength late this morning.”
But then gradual weakening is forecast to begin Wednesday night or early Thursday, before landfall later on Thursday on the western Gulf Coast of Florida.
Overall, the insurance and reinsurance market impacts from tropical storm Eta are unlikely to be significant, with the greatest damage from the storm’s long journey seen in Central America where insurance penetration is low and reinsurance coverage utilised in much lower amounts.
The NHC’s latest forecast warns of up to 2 to 4 feet of storm surge for the coast between Steinhatchee River and Bonita Beach, including areas such as Tampa Bay.
Additional rainfall could take storm totals for some parts of Florida to as high as 20 inches, with some meteorologists calling it a 1-in-100 year rain event for the state, exacerbating the flood situation already seen in the southern parts of the state.
Up to an additional 5 inches of rain is forecast for parts of the western coastal region of Florida as tropical storm Eta approaches.
The flooding has been widespread in the state, with even cities like Fort Lauderdale on the east coast badly hit and 16 inches of rainfall recorded in the Miami area, with significant flooding seen across Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The main impacts to insurance and reinsurance markets in Florida looks set to be through flood insurance covers, which are largely publicly held by the NFIP and some private market carriers.
As a result, the private market impacts of tropical storm Eta will not be significant, saving the reinsurance market from another attritional low billion dollar storm loss, it appears.
Theta has now formed in the mid-Atlantic, becoming the 29th named tropical storm of the season to cap a busy year by breaking the all-time record set in 2005 for the number of named storms to form.
The fact Florida only got hit by a single storm in such a busy season has helped to keep the overall impacts to reinsurance and ILS markets lower than they could have been, as too has the fact many of the hurricanes that did make a U.S. landfall, did so in areas of relatively low-exposure.