Flooding from Eta
Street flooding in St. Petersburg, Florida, on November 11, 2020, as Tropical Storm Eta brought a four-foot storm surge to Tampa Bay. (Image credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office)

Tropical Storm Eta made landfall at 4 a.m. EST Thursday, November 12, near Cedar Key, Florida, about 85 miles northwest of Tampa. At landfall, Eta had maximum winds of 50 mph and a central pressure of 996 mb. Eta brought a storm surge of just over four feet to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night and rainfall amounts of up to 10 inches in the Tampa area. One death has been blamed on the storm, an electrocution in Bradenton Beach. No major structural damage was being reported in the Tampa area, though considerable street flooding, tree damage, and power failures were observed, according to a write-up at weather.com.

Eta was the record 12th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. in 2020, well ahead of the previous record of nine from 1916. In all, Eta made four landfalls:

November 3: Nicaragua, category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds
November 8: South-central Cuba, tropical storm with 65 mph winds
November 8: Florida Keys, tropical storm with 65 mph winds
November 12: Cedar Key, Florida, tropical storm with 50 mph winds

According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, as of 10 a.m. EST Thursday, Eta had been a named storm for 9.5 days (not including the time it was a tropical depression), tying it with Gordon (1994) for the longest-lived Atlantic named storm forming in November in the satellite era (since 1966). Eta was the latest-occurring named storm to make landfall in Florida since Gordon, which hit Cape Coral on November 16, 1994.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Radar image of Tropical Storm Eta at 11:14 p.m. EST Wednesday, November 11, 2020, shortly before Eta’s storm surge brought the fourth-highest water level on record to St. Petersburg, Florida. (Image credit: Mark Nissenbaum/Florida State University)

Eta’s rains

Persistent rain bands from Eta set up over portions of western Florida on Wednesday, resulting in torrential rains that caused widespread urban flooding. The heaviest rains, near 10 inches, fell in the Tampa region.

Eta’s rains have brought four rivers in western Florida to minor flood stage, with one river, the Little Manatee River, expected to reach moderate flood stage on Friday.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Rainfall amounts for the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. EST Thursday, November 12. Eta dumped up to 10 inches of rain (blue colors) near Tampa, Florida. (Image credit: NOAA)

Eta’s winds and gusts

Strong winds from Eta affected much of the western Florida coast on Wednesday, knocking out power to approximately 35,000 customers as of 11 a.m. EST Thursday, according to poweroutage.us. Here are some of the top wind gusts in Florida from Eta as of 5 p.m. EST Wednesday, November 11, according to the NWS:

69 mph, Port Charlotte
60 mph, Punta Gorda
52 mph, Tampa
55 mph, Boca Raton
53 mph, Fort Myers
52 mph, Sarasota

Figure 3
Figure 3. Eta’s storm surge brought a water level of 3.47 feet above high tide (mean higher high water, or MHHW) to St. Petersburg, Florida, ranking as the fourth-highest water level in the city since records began in 1947 and its highest water level since Hurricane Josephine 24 years ago. (Image credit: NOAA Tides & Currents)

Minor coastal flooding from a four-foot storm surge in Tampa Bay

Eta’s onshore winds generated a storm surge just over four feet in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. In St. Petersburg, the water level of 3.47 feet above high tide recorded at 11:42 p.m. EST Wednesday ranked as the fourth-highest water level in the city since records began in 1947 and its highest water level since Hurricane Josephine 24 years ago.

For the remainder of the western Florida coast from Naples to Cedar Key, Eta brought a storm surge of two to three feet, which caused minor coastal flooding.

Forecast for Eta

At 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Eta was located 40 miles north-northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, with top sustained winds of 40 mph and a central pressure of 1004 mb, moving north-northeast at 15 mph. Eta is expected to accelerate over the Atlantic waters offshore of the Carolinas through early Friday before heading well east of the Mid-Atlantic coast by late Friday. Eta is expected to become post-tropical by Friday night 45-50 mph winds.

The heavy rains that are falling in South Carolina and North Carolina are not directly associated with Eta, but are associated with a moist flow of Atlantic air interacting with a frontal boundary, a phenomenon called a predecessor rain event. Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has smashed its one- and two-day rainfall records (data since 2000) with 6.02 inches on Wednesday and 8.89 inches through noon Thursday. Rains from the event have now given Research Triangle, North Carolina, its third-wettest year on record, and the state record for greatest precipitation in a year could fall later this month at Highlands, North Carolina.

Theta poses little threat to land

There was little change on Thursday to Tropical Storm Theta, the record-breaking 29th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. At 10 a.m. EST Thursday, Theta was located about 455 miles south-southwest of the Azores Islands, headed east at about 12 mph. Theta had top sustained winds of 65 mph.

Theta will move east through Sunday, taking the storm toward the Canary Islands. There are no land areas in Theta’s three-day cone of uncertainty, and high wind shear and cold waters are expected to weaken Theta to a post-tropical cyclone with 35 mph winds by Sunday.

Figure 4
Figure 4. GeoColor satellite image of 98L to the south of Hispaniola at 11:50 a.m. EST Thursday, November 12. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

98L likely to become dangerous Tropical Storm Iota in the Caribbean this weekend

A tropical wave in the central Caribbean, designated 98L by NHC, brought flash flooding and heavy rains of three to five inches to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday. On Thursday, the wave was located a few hundred miles south of the Dominican Republic. Satellite imagery showed that 98L’s heavy thunderstorm activity was disorganized, but low-level spin was beginning to form in addition to some spiral bands. The first Hurricane Hunter mission into 98L is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

The top three models for predicting tropical cyclone genesis were giving 98L strong support for development by this weekend, when the wave will likely be in the central or southwestern Caribbean, between Jamaica and Nicaragua. The wave is predicted to move mostly westward at about 5-10 mph under the steering influence of a ridge of high pressure to its north, resulting in a potential threat to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Central America in the coming days. Conditions for development will be favorable through Tuesday, with the SHIPS model predicting light to moderate wind shear of 5-15 knots, warm sea surface temperatures of 29-29.5 degrees Celsius (84-85°F), and a moist atmosphere with a mid-level relative humidity of 60-70%.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Track forecasts out to eight days for 98L from the 6Z (1 a.m. EST) Thursday, November 12, run of the GFS ensemble model (GEFS). The black line is the mean of the 31 ensemble members; individual ensemble member forecasts are the thin lines, color-coded by the central pressure they predict for 98L, which is expected to move mostly westward and be a significant threat to intensify into a hurricane. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

These conditions are very similar to what Hurricane Eta experienced in its formative stages in the Caribbean in late October, and 98L is a significant threat to intensify into a hurricane that will affect the same areas of the Caribbean impacted by Hurricane Eta. In particular, Nicaragua and Honduras, which were devastated by Hurricane Eta, appear at great risk of receiving heavy rains from 98L beginning on Monday.

In a best-case scenario, 98L will not develop, or will pass well to the north of Honduras, bringing heavy rains of 3-6 inches to Nicaragua and Honduras next week between November 15-20. Rains of this magnitude are capable of causing dangerous life-threatening flooding in regions still recovering from Hurricane Eta’s floods from last week. The worst-case scenario, which the top three models for predicting tropical cyclone genesis were all calling for, was for northern Honduras to receive over 20 inches of rain from 98L next week. While the hurricane intensity models should not be trusted until 98L becomes a tropical cyclone with a closed surface circulation, the top intensity models on Thursday morning all predicted that 98L would become a hurricane by Tuesday, with several of the models forecasting a major hurricane.

In a 1 p.m. EST Thursday tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 98L two-day and five-day odds of development of 80% and 90%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Iota, the ninth letter in the Greek alphabet.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Posted on November 12, 2020 at 1:57 p.m. EST.

Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

12 replies on “Meandering Eta makes fourth landfall, this time northwest of Tampa, Florida”

  1. Costa Rica has thrown the dice for reopening to tourism, which at best would be quite modest compared to normal. Now under a state of emergency in aftermath of Eta (https://ticotimes.net/2020/11/11/costa-rica-declares-state-of-emergency-for-hurricane-eta-response), this nation is reminded of hardship, even though its had the record this year on the Happy Planet Index. With Iota as a possible repeat of Eta this weekend, and pandemic raging in most nations that provide tourists, and now flu season…. You would not believe how beautiful it is here after a year with wildlife returning like hasn’t been seen in a generation. I’m holed-up on a remote mountain, safe with supplies stockpiled. Don’t come now, roads are tricky, unless you can do likewise, and maybe wait until Christmas unless Iota fizzles.

    1. As long as you’re SAFE, that’s good! I can imagine that tourism has taken a toll in Costa Rica. I was supposed to go way back in 2007, but the port had some scheduling difficulties, so our ship ended up docking in Cartagena, Colombia, which was cool too, but I was looking forward to getting “lost” in the jungle…

  2. Here in the big city of Fort White, FL the winds were all aloft. Not much rain either. Family in Sarasota reported copious amounts of both. Sorry kids but glad I was here this time.

  3. Well the COC went about 50 miles N of my house. No big wind here in NE Fl. One or two “powerful” gust. A lot of rain fast between 1 and 3:30 am.

    Season closing down, maybe

  4. Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #35 – 3:00 AM JST November 13 2020
    South China Sea

    At 18:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Vamco (980 hPa) located at 15.1N 116.3E has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts of 85 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 10 knots.

    Storm Force Winds
    45 nm from the center

    Gale Force Winds
    240 nm from the center in northeastern quadrant
    150 nm from the center in southwestern quadrant

    Dvorak Intensity: T3.5

    Forecast and Intensity
    12 HRS: 15.4N 114.3E – 60 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    24 HRS: 15.5N 112.3E – 60 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    48 HRS: 16.8N 108.3E – 55 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    72 HRS: 18.1N 105.0E – Tropical Depression over land Laos

  5. Mauritius Meteorological Services
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #2 – 22:00 PM RET November 12 2020
    East Northeast of Diego Garcia

    At 18:00 PM UTC, Tropical Disturbance 01R (1001 hPa) located at 4.7S 86.3E has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 35 knots. The disturbance is reported as moving west at 7 knots.

    Dvorak Intensity: T2.0/2.0/D0.5/6 HRS

    Forecast and Intensity
    12 HRS: 5.1S 84.2E – 30 knots (Depression Tropicale)
    24 HRS: 6.4S 81.5E – 40 knots (Tempête Tropical Modérée)
    48 HRS: 10.8S 76.2E – 60 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
    72 HRS: 15.0S 73.6E – 55 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)

    Additional Information
    In the last 6 hours, convective activity has continued to be maintained around tropical disturbance. It has become a little more concentrated near the center. The 1525UTC ASCAT swath shows that the circulation remains fairly wide and that maximum winds are hardly reaching the gale force winds in the southern semicircle far from the center. The intensity is therefore fixed at 25 kts with a Dvorak signature that asserts itself a little more at 2.0.

    The disturbance continues to move westward, guided by the flow generated by the subtropical ridge. The system should accelerate its southwestward movement over the next 24 hours. Under the impulse of the dynamics further south, the ridge is shifting and allowing a northerly steering flow from Sunday. The numerical models are in good agreement on this global track. Further, the uncertainty becomes more important in relation with the weak steering flow, letting the system move more slowly.

    On this track, environmental conditions are very favorable. However, as the circulation near the center is not yet solidly established, the intensification will be really evident only after 24 hours with a very good divergence, little shear and a very strong oceanic potential. At the end of the weekend, however, conditions should deteriorate with a significant drop in ocean potential south of 15.0S and a significant increase of the west northwesterly shear, leading to an important weakening phase of the intensity of the system which will have reached the threshold of a tropical cyclone.

  6. [cleaned links from earlier version]

    The sixth named storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, Fay formed from a vigorous tropical wave on August 15 over the Dominican Republic. It passed over the island of Hispaniola, into the Gulf of Gonâve, across the island of Cuba, and made landfall on the Florida Keys late in the afternoon of August 18 before veering into the Gulf of Mexico. It again made landfall near Naples, Florida, in the early hours of August 19 and progressed northeast through the Florida peninsula, emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne on August 20. Extensive flooding took place in parts of Florida as a result of its slow movement. On August 21, it made landfall again near New Smyrna Beach, Florida, moving due west across the Panhandle, crossing Gainesville and Panama City, Florida. As it zigzagged from water to land, it became the first storm in recorded history to make landfall in Florida four times. Thirty-six deaths were blamed on Fay.The storm also resulted in one of the most prolific tropical cyclone related tornado outbreaks on record. A total of 81 tornadoes touched down across five states, three of which were rated as EF2. Damage from Fay was heavy, estimated at $560 million.

    1. Thank you for the info about the 4th landfall. I’d forgotten about Fay. We got doused pretty good just north of Panama City.

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