Even as it weakened to tropical depression status, former Category 4 Hurricane Eta continued bringing misery to Central America with torrential rain, flooding, and landslides. The Associated Press had tallied at least 13 deaths by midday Thursday, November 5: seven in Honduras, four in Guatemala, and two in Nicaragua. Washed-out roads left more than 40 communities in Honduras inaccessible.
Among the villages hit by landslides in northern Guatemala was Los Trigales, where at least four people died and two others remained missing.
The center of the diffuse circulation of Tropical Depression Eta was located in northwest Honduras at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, November 5, according to the National Hurricane Center. Top sustained winds were down to 30 mph, and the center of Eta was mostly devoid of convection (showers and thunderstorms). Eta’s heaviest inland rains had pushed north into eastern Guatemala and Belize.
A large cluster of intense convection was located offshore in the Northwest Caribbean, where Eta is expected to move on Friday en route to a potential path across Cuba this weekend and across or near Florida early next week.
Forecast for Eta
The core of Eta’s circulation will work its way offshore on Thursday night, drifting north and then northeastward. An upper-level trough moving across the eastern Gulf of Mexico is then expected to pull Eta northeastward at a faster pace on Friday and Saturday. Models generally agree that Eta will reconsolidate and re-intensify around a more well-defined center as it heads toward Cuba. It’s possible that Eta will be classified as a remnant low before it moves offshore; if this were to happen, NHC policy is generally to reuse the previous name as long as the re-intensified storm can be traced back to its original incarnation.
There is plenty of warm water on hand for Eta, with sea surface temperatures of 29°C (84°F) running 0.5-1.0°C above average for this time of year and oceanic heat content very supportive of strengthening. On the other hand, wind shear will be increasing, and the atmosphere around Eta – currently very moist – will become steadily drier.
Overall, conditions do not favor anything like a repeat of Eta’s breakneck intensification to Category 4 strength before it reached Nicaragua. Assuming that Eta follows the NHC-predicted track toward western Cuba, it is much more likely to be a tropical storm rather than a hurricane when it arrives there on Sunday.
The forecast gets more complicated beyond this point. It appears the southern end of the upper-level trough steering Eta will break off from the jet stream and dive into the eastern Gulf. As a result, Eta (again assuming it has made it this far) will likely get pulled toward the small trough remnant, perhaps rotating around it or becoming absorbed by it. The GFS and European models suggest that such a turn would be most likely to unfold somewhere in the vicinity of South Florida on Monday and/or Tuesday. It is too soon to be confident about Eta’s trajectory or strength at this point until there is a better sense of its structure after it moves offshore on Friday. Long-range models indicate that both features will be slow to move from the weekend until later next week.
The bottom line: a prolonged period of disturbed weather appears likely for South Florida, with persistent moist easterly flow and periods of heavy rain. In addition, the upcoming new moon will favor king tides in the Miami area by the end of next week (November 14-17). It’s also possible that some of Eta’s moisture will be pulled further north into the southeastern U.S. as the week unfolds.
Posted on November 5, 2020(2:59 EST).