National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Pinellas County on Wednesday morning as Hurricane Eta continues on a path offshore the west coast of Florida.
A storm surge watch also is in effect from Bonita Beach to Suwanee River, including Tampa Bay. Pinellas also is under a tropical storm warning, flash flood watch and high surf advisory.
At 10 a.m., Eta was 145 miles south-southwest of Tampa and moving north-northeast at 17 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 75 mph. Eta is a Category 1 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Tropical storm force winds of 45-60 mph with gusts up to 70 mph are expected this afternoon until Thursday afternoon. An additional 2-4 inches of rain is expected. Flooding is possible especially in low-lying areas.
The situation is somewhat favorable for tornadoes so residents should stay tuned to the weather forecast. Storm surge of 2-4 feet is possible especially at high tide.
Pinellas County has activated its Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2 and the information center is open 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.