Pinellas County commissioners declared a local state of emergency Wednesday morning as then Hurricane Eta continued on a path offshore the west coast of Florida.
Since the decision was made, Eta has weakened back to a tropical storm.
The county has activated its Emergency Operations Center and the information center is open so residents can call in for any storm-related questions. Call 727-464-4333. The deaf or those hard of hearing can chat online at bit.ly/PinellasChat.
Two emergency shelters are open: Ross Norton Recreation Complex, 1426 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Clearwater and Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th St. N. in St. Petersburg. COVID-19 rapid testing will be available at both shelters. Hotels will be available for residents in need of shelter that test positive for COVID-19.
Masks will be required inside shelters. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer will be available. Social distancing will be required. For more information, visit https://www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/shelters.htm.
At 1 p.m., Eta was about 115 miles southwest of Tampa and 115 miles south-southwest of Tarpon Springs. It was moving north-northeast at about 10 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 70 mph.
A tropical storm warning, tornado watch, storm surge warning, flash flood watch, high surf advisory and rip current statement were in effect in Pinellas. The hurricane watch has been canceled.
National Weather Service says the threat from Tropical Storm Eta is increasing across west central Florida this afternoon as the storm moves northward just off the coast. The greatest impacts are expected along the coastline and north of Interstate 4 corridor as the system approaches the nature coast by Thursday morning.
Tropical storm conditions are likely and hurricane conditions are possible starting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon. High winds are expected along with storm surge of 2-4 feet around high tide, potential flooding and tornadoes.
Pinellas County schools are closed and will be closed on Thursday. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is suspending service Wednesday afternoon until after the storm has passed. Call 727-540-1900 for more information.
Government offices and local businesses are announcing closures. Residents are advised to call ahead before venturing out for appointments. Residents also are urged to stay at home if at all possible.
The 29th named storm of the season formed early Tuesday morning. 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.