Tropical storm Eta’s track has shifted to the east and portions of Florida’s west coast including Pinellas County are back in the forecast cone.
In addition, a tropical storm watch has been issued for the west coast of Florida from Englewood northward to Suwannee River, including Pinellas County. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch areas, generally within 48 hours.
At 4 p.m., the center of Eta was about 90 miles north of the western tip of Cuba and it was moving north at 7 p.m. Maximum sustained winds were 60 mph.
National Hurricane Center predicts that Eta will continue moving north-northeast through Wednesday night before turning toward the northeast on Thursday. The storm is forecast to move parallel to but offshore the Florida west coast on Thursday and then move near or over Apalchee Bay on Thursday night and Friday.
Some strengthening is possible and Eta could be near hurricane strength by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Gradual weakening is expected to begin on Thursday afternoon. NCH says the track may move further east before the storm moves inland in about 120 hours.
Portions of west Florida, including the Tampa Bay area could receive 1-2 inches of rain with isolated totals of 4 inches. Flooding is possible in low-lying areas.
National Weather Service is forecasting rainy and windy conditions through Friday with rain chances as high as 60% and winds gusts up to 40 mph.
Pinellas County has activated its Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2 and the information center is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for any storm-related questions. Call 727-464-4333. The deaf or those hard of hearing can chat online at bit.ly/PinellasChat.
For preparation information, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/resident/disasters.htm.
Meanwhile, the 29th named storm of the season formed early Tuesday morning. Theta was located southwest of the Azores. It was moving eastward over the Atlantic Ocean and expected to move east-northeastward over the next few days. It is no immediate threat to land.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate prediction experts forecast early on that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season would be a busy one. Eta was the 28th named storm of a season that has already had 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes.
An average hurricane season includes 12 named storms with six strengthening into a hurricane and three becoming a major hurricane.
The 2020 season was tied with 2005 for being the most active, but Theta broke the record. 2020 is the second season to use Greek letters to name storms. The first season was 2005.
Eleven storms have made landfall in the United States this year, which breaks the record of nine set in 1916.
NOAA predicted that this year could have between 19-25 named storms, seven-11 hurricanes and three-six major hurricanes, which are a Category 3 or above.