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Tropical Storm Eta: Gov. DeSantis expands state of emergency, asks for federal emergency declaration

Cheryl McCloud
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

As Tropical Storm Eta targeted the west coast of Florida Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency and asked for a national emergency declaration.

After keeping everyone guessing on exactly where it would go for several days, Eta strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday morning and set its sights on the west coast of Florida. By early afternoon, it had dropped back down to a strong tropical storm.

Tropical-storm-force-winds, rain and flooding were being felt along the coast Wednesday ahead of an anticipated landfall Thursday. It will mark the second Florida landfall by Eta. The state's first direct hit by a tropical cyclone this year came Sunday when Eta hit Lower Matecumbe Key with winds of 65 mph.

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DeSantis Wednesday expanded his original state of emergency to include 13 counties along Florida's west coast. 

Counties included in the order: Alachua, Broward, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hendry, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota and Sumter counties.

DeSantis asks for federal 'pre-landfall emergency'

In other action, DeSantis Wednesday sent a letter to President Trump, asking that the president declare a "pre-landfall emergency" for the following counties: Alachua, Citrus, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hernando, Hillsborough, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota and Sumter counties.

"I request public assistance ... limited to direct federal assistance and reimbursement for critical mass care including evacuation and sheltering support that are beyond the capability of state and affected tribal and/or local governments," DeSantis said.

"The state is preparing to support these counties as they respond to long duration coastal flooding, flash flooding and strong winds as a result of Hurricane Eta."

He added that Florida's response to Eta follows five consecutive hurricane seasons where the state has suffered "multiple million, and in some cases, multiple billion-dollar storms."