Portions Of Tampa Bay Under Tropical Storm Watch As Eta's Track Inches East
While there still remains a high degree of uncertainty around Tropical Storm Eta's track, forecasters said it could produce up to 4 inches of rain across the region.
Portions of West Central Florida, including the greater Tampa Bay region, are under a tropical storm watch as the track of Tropical Storm Eta has shifted slightly east.
The watch area, issued by the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday afternoon, runs from Englewood to the north and includes the Tampa metro area along with the Nature Coast and Florida’s Big Bend.
“Tropical storm conditions are possible in the warned area by Thursday afternoon as Eta parallels the coast,” said Athena Masson, meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “Eta is expected to produce 1-2 inches of rainfall, with isolated totals of 4 inches for portions of West Florida through Thursday. Flash flooding and coastal hazards will be possible through the end of the week for much of the Gulf Coast.”
Masson said that there are still high amounts of uncertainty regarding Eta in the coming days.
Either way, she said periods of heavy rain are expected to continue across our area from the outer bands through at least Thursday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Eta was located about 90 miles north of the western tip of Cuba and moving north at 7 mph. Maximum winds are 60 mph with higher gusts, according to the hurricane service.
The hurricane center’s track as of Tuesday morning had taken the storm further west into the Gulf — with the greater Tampa Bay region outside the forecast cone — until Tuesday afternoon's shift to the east.
The storm also remained nearly stationary most of Tuesday, a day after moving west of the Florida Keys and dumping heavy rain across South Florida.
FPREN meteorologist Ray Hawthorne says Eta could remain in the Gulf of Mexico over the next several days.
“I’m expecting a slow northward drift (Tuesday) into Wednesday and there should be some strengthening,” Hawthorne said. “There’s increasing evidence wind shear and dry air will weaken Eta significantly as it drifts closer to the Florida Panhandle this weekend, but it’s a good idea to continue monitoring the storm given its tough-to-predict nature.”
Forecasters say Eta will continue moving north or north-northeast through Wednesday night, then turn toward the northeast on Thursday. It is expected to parallel Florida's west coast on Thursday and move near or over Apalachee Bay, near Tallahassee, on Thursday night and Friday.
Forecasters say it will move to the north as a tropical storm, possibly gaining strength while approaching the Florida Panhandle and northern Gulf Coast and then weakening into a tropical depression this weekend.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service say Eta could produce tropical storm-force winds on Wednesday — especially near Florida’s West Coast — and periods of showers and storms through the rest of the week.
But even if the winds aren't that strong, the region can expect breezy conditions, forecasters said.
Eta also could generate minor coastal flooding starting Wednesday and Thursday as winds shift from the south, with a risk of rip currents along Tampa Bay area beaches and tides running 1-2 feet above normal.
Drier air is forecast to move into the region starting Friday, with limited rain chances this weekend, but with warm and humid conditions and average high temperatures running 5-10 degrees above normal.
Meanwhile, this unusually busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is now a historic one with the formation of Subtropical Storm Theta in the open Atlantic on Monday night. It's set a record as the 29th named storm in the Atlantic, breaking the previous mark of 28 in 2005. It is not forecast to threaten land.
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.