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Eta restrengthens into a tropical storm; warnings issued for South Florida

Eta on Saturday strengthened into a tropical storm as it continued making its way toward Cuba and Florida.

The center of Eta was expected to approach the Cayman Islands Saturday, be near Cuba on Saturday night and Sunday, and approach the Florida Keys or South Florida late Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Eta re-emerged from Central America into the western Caribbean as a sprawling storm that is expected to bring widespread rain and gusty winds to South Florida this weekend, and linger in the Gulf deep into next week.

Widespread wind impacts are also likely well away from the center. Expect tropical storm force wind gusts north to the Space Coast and coastal Southwest Florida.

Tropical storm warnings were issued Saturday for South Florida and the Florida Keys, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

In Central America, which Eta reached as a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday before weakening into a tropical depression, authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages from flooding and landslides following days of torrential rains. The confirmed death toll was in the dozens and expected to rise.

Searchers in Guatemala on Friday dug through mud and debris looking for an estimated 100 people believed buried by a massive, rain-fueled landslide, as the remnants of Hurricane Eta strengthened early Saturday as the storm churned toward Cuba.

Eta is the 28th storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which ties the 2005 season for the most storms on record, the Weather Channel said. It’s also the 12th hurricane of the season, which ties for the second-most on record for a year in the Atlantic.

Hurricane season continues until Nov. 30.

Tropical Storm Eta’s path

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Associated Press