PortMiami Closed as Tropical Storm Eta Approaches

hurricane eta
Storm clouds gather at Key West, Florida, November 8 (USCG)

Published Nov 8, 2020 6:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Tropical Storm Eta, which struck Central America as a major hurricane before drifting northeast across the Caribbean, is now headed towards the Florida Keys. It is expected to strengthen and become a Category One hurricane once more before passing over the Florida Keys. 

The eye is expected to pass south of Florida's mainland, but strong winds are expected on the southern coast of the Florida peninsula. A hurricane watch is in effect for Miami, the Keys, Naples and coastal areas in between. A storm surge warning is in effect from Naples to the Monroe County Toll bridge, about 30 miles to the south of Miami, with 2-4 feet of surge expected.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to arrive well in advance of the storm's eye. Effective midnight on Saturday, the Captain of the Port (COTP) for Miami set port condition "Zulu" for the Ports of Fort Pierce, Miami, Everglades and Palm Beach due to the possibility of gale-force winds. The declaration means that vessel traffic in or out of the port is shut down without the COTP's permission. All vessel movements within the port are also banned, and cargo operations and waterfront facility operations must close down until the restrictions are lifted. Most oceangoing vessels over 500 GT have already been ordered to ride out the storm at sea; those remaining must take extra precautions, including ballasting down, doubling mooring lines and making ready their anchors. 

At PortMiami, the access tunnel to the main harbor island is also temporarily closed. Drawbridges have also been closed to navigation. 

"As we’ve seen from impacts to Honduras and Guatemala, Tropical Storm Eta is a weather system not to be underestimated, particularly as it approaches and interacts with both sides of the Florida peninsula," said Adm. Eric C. Jones, Coast Guard Seventh District commander. "We see three primary, yet different risk areas: onshore, near shore, and offshore. Because this system is so large and its forecast track uncertain, the wind, rain, and sea state will have both widespread and localized impacts; mariners at sea and citizens ashore should remain extra vigilant."

Tropical Storm Eta is the 28th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which is now tied for the most active season on record. The last season with 28 storms was in 2005, and it included four devastating Category 5 hurricanes - Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.