It has been 22 years since Tropical Storm Mitch hit Florida. It was November 5, 1998, and that was the last time Bang Sunshine suffered a tropical storm wind in November.
Now, after devastating Central America, a tropical depression formerly known as Hurricane Eta is forecast to reach the southernmost tip of Florida as a tropical storm early on Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The Tropical Storm Clock was released late on Friday for all of southern Florida. Alerts ran from Bonita Beach on the west coast to Lake Okeechobee to Jupiter Inlet on the east coast and then as far south via the Florida Keys.
Eta left the mountains of Central America and re-entered the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, following the storm center̵7;s midnight Saturday night advice. The Eta is located 310 miles southwest of Grand Cayman, traveling northeast at 10 mph with a maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
It is expected to hit tropical storm intensity on Saturday mornings and generate winds of almost 65 mph on Sunday night – just 10 miles / h less than Category 1 hurricane intensity.
Tropical Storm Eta’s projected path shows it passing through the Cayman Islands on Saturday and approaching Cuba that night. It is then expected to reach the Florida Keys by the end of Sunday or early Monday. After landing in the Keys, Eta could move up the southwest coast of Florida before turning west into the Gulf of Mexico.
The cone of uncertainty falls along southwest Florida and the Keys, but Tampa Bay is just outside it – for now. The storm was forecast to pass through the western bay area on Wednesday, but its forecast path changed throughout the week.
“It’s a tropical depression on its way to becoming a tropical storm,” said chief meteorologist Mike Clay of Spectrum Bay News 9. “If I were in South Florida, I would watch this very carefully.”
The predictive models show Eta to be an disorganized storm, and that makes it more difficult to predict its future path and intensity, Clay said.
While the storm center is not expected to reach Tampa Bay, Bay News 9’s forecast is that the area will start next week with stronger winds than usual and a 60% chance of rain on Monday and a 50% chance on Tuesday.
South Florida is expected to experience heavy rains from Eta starting Friday night and stronger winds on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The Coast Guard placed an “X-Ray” condition for Port Tampa Bay, Port St.. Pete, Port of Manatee and Fort Myers, limit the navigational traffic to the port and require commercial vessels to obtain permission to stay in the port.
The weather agency issued a flood warning for southeast Florida and warned that Eta could lead to a “prolonged flood event”. Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach announced Friday that they will be distributing free sandbags to residents.
The slow moving Eta means Tampa Bay won’t feel the storm’s impact later this week. However, the area can still rain with a 20% chance of being on Saturday and 40% on Sunday. Both dates are predicted to cool with mid-80s highs. But keep an eye out for Eta this weekend to see what might happen next week.
The similarities between Mitch and Eta go far beyond when they formed. Like Eta, Mitch devastated Honduras and Nicaragua like a massive hurricane – killing more than 10,000 people – before it turned northeast toward Florida and landed like a weakened tropical storm.
Eta was blamed for at least 57 deaths in Central America as of Friday, according to the Associated Press.
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A Guide to Tampa Bay Storms 2020
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