Like several of the nearly 30 named storms this Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Eta’s path has been tricky for forecasters to figure out. But they are now confident the storm will make its second Florida landfall Thursday, this time along the state’s western coast.
Tropical Storm Eta hit the Florida Keys earlier this week with 70 mph winds. Outer bands of wavy rainfall flooded streets in the southern part of the Florida Peninsula, including the Miami metropolitan area. Eta is now in the Gulf of Mexico, heading toward Florida’s west coast.
Impact on freight
Vessel movement and some ship-to-shore operations remain restricted at the Florida ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Manatee and Fort Myers, according to Coast Guard officials. They may tighten restrictions sometime Wednesday.
Delays in surface and air transportation are likely due to torrential rainfall and potential flooding the next few days.
As of 7 a.m. EST Wednesday, Eta was centered 170 miles southwest of Tampa, producing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the center. A University of South Florida buoy just southeast of Eta’s center measured a sustained wind of 49 mph and a gust of 65 mph. Doppler radars indicate that tropical-storm-force winds are located just offshore of Florida’s southwestern coast.
There’s a good chance that Eta will strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane sometime Wednesday as it approaches the west coast of Florida, with rapid weakening after landfall on
Thursday. That landfall will most likely happen between Tampa and Cedar Key.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a tropical storm warning for the Dry Tortugas, as well as areas from Bonita Beach to the Suwannee River. A hurricane watch is in effect from Anna Maria Island to Yankeetown.
Hurricane conditions are possible in the watch area by early Thursday. NHC forecasters expect tropical storm conditions in the Dry Tortugas through Wednesday morning and they expect tropical storm conditions in the tropical storm warning area along the Florida west coast by Wednesday afternoon. Tropical Storm conditions are possible in the watch area along the Florida Big Bend region by Thursday.
Look for 2 to 4 inches in western Florida through Friday, with maximum storm totals of 6 inches in some spots; for northern Florida, an additional 1 to 2 inches, with isolated totals of 4 inches; and 20-inch totals in southern Florida.
Flash flooding and river flooding will be possible in western Cuba on Wednesday, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain. Additional flash and urban flooding will be possible in South Florida, especially across previously inundated areas. Flash, urban and isolated minor river flooding is expected across portions of West and North Florida through Friday.
Storm surge forecast
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland. The water could reach the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:
• Steinhatchee River to Bonita Beach, including Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor: 2-4 feet.
• Bonita Beach to Flamingo: 1-2 feet.
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore flow, where the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle and can vary greatly over short distances.
Look for updates on Eta throughout the rest of the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.