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After devastating Central America, Eta shifts toward Florida

The storm once known as Hurricane Eta has killed at least 18 in Central America. Forecasters say it’s heading toward Florida as a tropical storm. But then what?
 
The projected path of Tropical Storm Eta from the National Hurricane Center's early Friday morning advisory.
The projected path of Tropical Storm Eta from the National Hurricane Center's early Friday morning advisory. [ National Hurricane Center ]
Published Nov. 5, 2020|Updated Nov. 6, 2020

Tropical Depression Eta continued to swirl over Central America on Friday morning while dropping life-threatening amounts of rain in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

But Florida is keeping a close eye on a storm more than 1,000 miles away because Eta is expected to turn northeast and veer toward the Sunshine State in the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Eta’s current projected zigzag course has it approaching Florida as a tropical storm — and then pivoting away from it.

The tropical system will likely return to the Caribbean Sea today, forecasters believe, and could become a tropical storm again before the weekend. Its potential path has Eta moving over Cuba on Sunday and toward the southern tip of Florida.

The projected path of Tropical Depression Eta according to the National Hurricane Center's 10 p.m. Thursday advisory.
The projected path of Tropical Depression Eta according to the National Hurricane Center's 10 p.m. Thursday advisory. [ National Hurricane Center ]

Eta, if current projections hold, would approach the Florida Keys on Monday, then take a sharp northwest turn into the Gulf of Mexico and away from Tampa Bay.

But that forecast is far from certain, said Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Diane Kacmarik. That’s why it’s important for Floridians to monitor how well Eta re-organizes over the Caribbean.

If Eta remains a tropical storm that passes by Florida, Kacmarik said Tampa Bay can expect a higher chance of rain, strong winds and humidity.

“The bottom line is there are several things to watch during the next few days," she said. "While there are a number of uncertainties in the forecast through early next week, we do expect an increase in humidity, cloud cover, and rain chances in our area.”

Eta had weakened considerably from the Category 4 storm that struck Central America earlier this week. Eta had killed 18 as of Thursday, according to Reuters, including an American man in Costa Rica. The Cayman Islands are under a tropical storm watch, while warnings of flash flooding and heavy rainfall continued for Honduras.

Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay said Thursday that Eta was “incredibly disorganized” and said it was “barely recognizable” in satellite images. Eta had sustained winds of 35 mph and was moving slowly off the coast of Belize at 7 mph.

Eta is not expected to regain hurricane strength while approaching Florida, however. It became the 28th named storm of the 2020 storm season when it formed last week, tying 2005′s record for the number of named storms in a single year. It is the 12th hurricane this year and the fifth major hurricane, which is any storm of Category 3 strength or greater. It is also the most powerful Greek-named storm on record.

Tampa Bay will see rain this weekend, according to Spectrum Bay News 9′s forecast. There will be a high of 85 on Friday and a 30 percent chance of rain. The high will stay the same for Saturday and Sunday with a 40 percent chance of rain this weekend.

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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

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NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

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