MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Florida needs to prepare for the potential of tropical storm conditions by Sunday night.
On Friday evening, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez declared a state of emergency, as the county continues to monitor the forecast track of Eta.
All the deep tropical moisture associated with Eta is expected to bring heavy rain to South Florida. Models are forecasting rainfall totals ranging from 5 to 10 inches through early next week.
Officials announced that Miami-Dade County will be opening an evacuation center at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds located at 10901 Coral Way for residents living in mobile homes and low-lying areas, or for those who need refuge.
Those requiring shelter are urged to bring necessities, including blankets, pillows, medicine, and required facial coverings.
Watch CBS4's Jessica Vallejo's report:
As the storm approaches, CBS4 Chief Meteorologist Craig Setzer says the speed of the storm is an important factor.
"If it is a very slow-moving storm this could be a big problem because tropical systems are prolific rain producers and really the amount of rain you get is how fast a storm is moving so the slower the movement, the higher the storm."
Setzer says you should be cautious.
"If you live in flood-prone areas keep your eye on canals and what is going on: the canals, the ponds, the streams, and anything around you that is prone to significant flooding. And if you dare to venture out, don't venture through roads covered with water because you don't know how deep it is."
There was a particular warning from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
Spokeswoman Erika Benitez said, "Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet and you are standing in water and never go on your roof when there is lightning." She also agreed with Setzer's warning about flooded roads, saying they can be extremely dangerous.
In anticipation of heavy rain and the potential for flooding, the City of Fort Lauderdale has a sandbag filling and distribution site for residents at Mills Pond Park. Sand is also available for Doral residents at Doral Central Park.
City of Fort Lauderdale spokesman Mike Jachles told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "There has been an overwhelming demand for sand. There were 800 bags of sand given away in the first hour. That went up to 1,000 bags an hour."
Jachles said the city had set up the site for distribution of sand to help residents at 2201 NW 9th Ave.
"We have some shovels here but we are asking city residents to bring their own shovels," he said. "We are going to be here until all the supplies are exhausted. Regardless of whether we have a direct hit or not our grass is so saturated in South Florida because of all the recent rainfall. The last thing we want is for anyone to get flooded."
A total of 5,900 sandbags were distributed on Friday, according to the City of Fort Lauderdale.
There was a similar scene at Doral Central Park at 3000 N.W. 87TH Ave. where residents also showed up to receive free bags of sand.
Sandra Perdomo said she remembers being victimized by flash floods on May 26TH of this year and said "We in our development got flooding in May when they had flash floods so we are just taking precautions. We are still working on our home and we don't want anything to go to waste."
Javier Dorta said, "I am getting sandbags to help my neighbors."
Grethel Gonzalez of Doral said "We are just getting sand for our back yard and our front door. You have to be worried because anything can happen."
Randy Smith of the South Florida Water Management District said the District had started lowering the level of canals starting last Sunday night, which was clearly seen at one site near State Road 7 and Orange Drive in Davie.
"This creates the capacity to take stormwater that comes from heavy rainfall that hits our yards and our parking lots and moves its way into Canals so by doing this, the District moves that excess water out into the ocean to prevent flooding."
Smith urges everyone to call their cities or towns or villages or counties if they see storm drains that are clogged. "That debris can impede water flow. A very common reason for localized flooding is stormwater that can not make its way off your yards and streets into the storm drains and then into the canal system."
Miami-Dade says all drawbridges will be locked down 8 hours before Tropical Storm force winds of 39 miles per hour or higher during severe weather and will keep them locked down until the end of severe weather. The county also cautions people about driving through flooded areas.
A Flood Watch goes into effect Friday night for Broward and Miami-Dade counties through Tuesday evening due to the potential for widespread flooding.
A Wind Advisory goes into effect Friday night through Saturday morning due to east winds of 20 to 25 mph with gusts as high as 35 mph. The winds will build throughout the day due to a tight pressure gradient.
On Friday we'll see some breezy showers and some gusty downpours. Friday night into Saturday the rain chance will be increasing.
Tropical Depression Eta is currently moving north off of the coast of Belize. Eta is forecast to move to the northeast and re-strengthen into a Tropical storm as it moves towards Cuba late Saturday into Sunday morning. Eta is then expected to move towards South Florida late Sunday into Monday morning. The center of Eta is expected to move across the Keys but tropical storm conditions would extend well out and away from the center.
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Based on the current forecast track, weather conditions will deteriorate across the Keys early Sunday and then the rest of South Florida later on Sunday through Monday. Gusty squalls and damaging tropical storm force winds will be possible. We remain unsettled through Tuesday likely due to the moisture tail of Eta lingering across the area.
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