Radar image of Hurricane Eta at 11:54 a.m. EST Wednesday, November 11, 2020, as the storm approached the western Florida coast. (Image credit: Mark Nissenbaum/Florida State University)

Tropical Storm Eta was bringing torrential rains, tropical storm-force winds, and a storm surge in excess of two feet to the west coast of Florida on Wednesday afternoon as it headed for an expected early Thursday morning landfall north of Tampa. Early Wednesday morning, Eta became the latest hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico in any calendar year since Hurricane Kate on November 19-21, 1985.

At 1 p.m. EST Wednesday, Eta was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds and a central pressure of 990 mb, moving north-northeast at 10 mph. According to data from NOAA, Eta brought a storm surge of 2.86 feet to Naples, Florida, during the Wednesday late morning high tide cycle, causing minor coastal flooding. Winds at Naples were as high as 30 mph, gusting to 55 mph, late Wednesday morning. Sarasota recorded sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 51 mph, at 11 a.m. EST Wednesday. Radar-estimated rainfall amounts over western Florida from Eta since November 8 were generally 2-4 inches, as of noon EST Wednesday.

Figure 1. GeoColor satellite image of Hurricane Eta at 10:11 a.m. EST Wednesday, November 11, shortly before it weakened to a tropical storm. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

Satellite and radar images showed that Eta peaked in organization early on Wednesday morning, with a well-defined eye surrounded by an intense ring of eyewall thunderstorms. However, dry air from the west, driven into the core of the storm by moderate wind shear of 15-20 knots, destroyed Eta’s eyewall late Wednesday morning, leaving the surface circulation center exposed to view and all of Eta’s heavy thunderstorms confined to the east side of the center.

Figure 2. Predicted wind speed (colors) and sea level pressure (black lines) for Eta at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday, November 11, from the 7 a.m. (12Z) Wednesday run of the HWRF model. The model predicted Eta would make its closest approach to Tampa, Florida, as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds and a central pressure of 991 mb. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Forecast for Eta

The models are in strong agreement that Eta will make landfall north of Tampa and south of Cedar Key, Florida, on Thursday morning, and then continue to the northeast across Florida, emerging over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday evening near the Florida/Georgia border.

Dry air should is expected to interfere with Eta’s development until landfall on Thursday morning. Eta will be moving over progressively cooler waters as it approaches the coast of Florida, which will also favor weakening. The official National Hurricane Center forecast calls for Eta to be a tropical storm with 65 mph winds near the time of landfall, but most of the intensity models predict that Eta will be weaker than that.

The primary damaging threat from Eta will be storm surge, since Tampa Bay acts to amplify storm surge during strong, persistent onshore winds. Eta could bring 3-5 feet of inundation to the bay during the Wednesday night high tide cycle, just before midnight. A three-foot storm surge at high tide would be a top-five high water event for St. Petersburg, and the highest in 24 years. Water level records there go back to 1947.

The difference between low tide and high tide is 1.5 to 2 feet, so coastal flooding will be considerably lower near low tide. Heavy rains of 2-4 inches, with isolated amounts of 6 inches, will cause additional problems for western Florida, and tropical storm-force winds will lead to considerable tree damage and power outages.

Figure 3. MODIS visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Theta on Wednesday morning, November 11. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Theta poses little threat to land

Tropical Storm Theta, the record-breaking 29th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, was slowly weakening on Wednesday as it moved over the waters of the northeastern Atlantic. At 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, Theta was located about 670 miles southwest of the Azores Islands, headed east-northeast at about 10 mph. Theta had top sustained winds of 60 mph, and satellite images showed the storm struggling with high wind shear, which had exposed its circulation center to view.

Theta will move east to east-northeast through the end of the week, taking the storm between the Azores Islands and Canary Islands. The only land area in Theta’s five-day cone of uncertainty is Portugal’s Madeira Island, which could experience tropical storm conditions on Sunday. High wind shear and cold waters are expected to weaken Theta to a post-tropical cyclone with 40 mph winds by Sunday.

Figure 4. Radar image of 98L at 11:35 a.m. EST November 11, as it spread heavy rains over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. (Image credit: Weather Underground, and IBM company)

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

A tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean, designated 98L by NHC, was bringing heavy rains to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. A flash flood watch was posted for eastern Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where 2-4 inches of rain was predicted. Satellite imagery showed that 98L’s heavy thunderstorm activity was disorganized, but the cloud pattern at mid-levels was beginning to show some spin, and the system appeared poised to take advantage of favorable conditions for development: moderate wind shear of 10-20 knots, warm SSTs of 29 degrees Celsius (84°F), and a moist atmosphere.

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 west-southwestward and then 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 this weekend. Conditions for development will be favorable through Monday, with the SHIPS model predicting light to moderate wind shear of 5-15 knots, warm SSTs of 29-29.5 degrees Celsius (84-85°F), and a moist atmosphere with a mid-level relative humidity of 65-70%.

Figure 5. Track forecasts out to seven days for 98L from the 6Z (1 a.m. EST) Wednesday, November 11, 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. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Also see: Eta regains tropical storm status, heads for Florida after causing devastation in Central America

These conditions are very similar to what Hurricane Eta experienced in its formative stages in the Caribbean in late October, and 98L is a 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. The 0Z, 6Z, and 12Z Wednesday runs of the GFS model, which showed 98L affecting Nicaragua as a hurricane on Tuesday, are quite concerning.

In a 1 p.m. EST Wednesday tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 98L two-day and five-day odds of development of 30% and 80%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Iota, the ninth letter in the Greek alphabet.

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Posted on November 11, 2020(1:55pm EST).

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...

56 replies on “Tropical Storm Eta heads toward landfall north of Tampa”

  1. Bradenton Beach
    Time: 2020-11-11 23:00 UTC
    Event: 0 STORM SURGE
    Source: broadcast media
    Remark: *** 1 fatal *** a person was fatally electrocuted after storm tide water entered their home. time estimated.

  2. Threat Level – Potential for wind 58 to 73 mph…ETAPotential Impacts Include:

    *Some damage to roofing and siding materials, along with damage to porches, awnings, carports, and sheds. A few buildings experiencing window, door, and garage door failures. Mobile homes damaged, especially if unanchored. Unsecured lightweight objects become dangerous projectiles.

    *Several large trees snapped or uprooted, but with greater numbers in places where trees are shallow rooted. Several fences and roadway signs blown over.

    *Some roads impassable from large debris, and more within urban or heavily wooded places. A few bridges, causeways, and access routes impassable.

    *Scattered power and communications outages, but more prevalent in areas with above ground lines.

  3. Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #29 – 9:00 AM JST November 12 2020
    SEVERE TROPICAL STORM VAMCO (T2022)
    =============================================
    South China Sea

    At 0:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Vamco (985 hPa) located at 15.2N 119.7E has 10 minute sustained winds of 55 knots with gusts of 80 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 15 knots.

    Storm Force Winds
    ===================
    40 nm from the center

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

    Dvorak Intensity: T4.5-

    Forecast and Intensity
    =========================
    12 HRS: 15.2N 117.4E – 65 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) South China Sea
    24 HRS: 15.2N 115.2E – 70 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) South China Sea
    48 HRS: 15.5N 111.0E – 65 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) South China Sea
    72 HRS: 16.9N 106.8E – 35 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) Over land Vietnam

  4. I hadn’t looked at NHC’s cone graphic today until late afternoon and was surprised to see how much earlier the storm was going to arrive on the northern Gulf coast. Yesterday at noon NHC showed Eta landing on the Florida panhandle at about 6 a.m. Sunday and now it’s forecast to hit just south of the Big Bend area tonight. (In yesterday’s blog post, Dr. Masters said Eta was like to “continu[e] a slow northerly motion at less than 5 mph through Friday.”)

    The storm was moving at 12 mph as of 7:00 p.m., up 2 mph from just 6 hours earlier. Anyone have any idea what changed since yesterday to propel the storm so much faster than the models and NHC predicted?

  5. 29 minutes ago
    LATEST POWER OUTAGE: 
    TECO: 919 CUSTOMERS OUT
    DUKE:
    PINELLAS COUNTY: 4,494 CUSTOMERS OUT
    FPL:
    MANATEE COUNTY : 2,800
    SARASOTA COUNTY: 4,200

  6. INTERESTS ELSEWHERE ALONG THE GULF COAST OF FLORIDA SHOULD MONITOR
    THE PROGRESS OF ETA.

    TROPICAL STORM CENTER LOCATED NEAR 27.3N 83.6W AT 11/2100Z
    POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 20 NM

    PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE NORTH OR 10 DEGREES AT 10 KT

    ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 990 MB
    MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 60 KT WITH GUSTS TO 75 KT.
    50 KT……. 40NE 40SE 0SW 0NW.
    34 KT…….100NE 100SE 30SW 90NW.
    12 FT SEAS.. 90NE 120SE 90SW 120NW.
    WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
    MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

    REPEAT…CENTER LOCATED NEAR 27.3N 83.6W AT 11/2100Z
    AT 11/1800Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 26.8N 83.7W

    FORECAST VALID 12/0600Z 28.6N 83.1W
    MAX WIND 55 KT…GUSTS 65 KT.
    50 KT… 30NE 30SE 0SW 0NW.
    34 KT… 70NE 80SE 30SW 70NW.

    FORECAST VALID 12/1800Z 30.4N 81.5W…INLAND
    MAX WIND 35 KT…GUSTS 45 KT.
    34 KT… 50NE 50SE 0SW 0NW.

    FORECAST VALID 13/0600Z 32.0N 78.9W…OVER WATER
    MAX WIND 30 KT…GUSTS 40 KT.

    FORECAST VALID 13/1800Z 33.8N 75.2W
    MAX WIND 25 KT…GUSTS 35 KT.

    FORECAST VALID 14/0600Z 36.0N 69.7W…POST-TROP/REMNT LOW
    MAX WIND 25 KT…GUSTS 35 KT.

    FORECAST VALID 14/1800Z…DISSIPATED

    REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 27.3N 83.6W

    INTERMEDIATE PUBLIC ADVISORY…WTNT34 KNHC/MIATCPAT4…AT 12/0000Z

    NEXT ADVISORY AT 12/0300Z

    $$
    FORECASTER STEWART

  7. Where’s the troll who keeps posting there are/will be bad weather in central Florida.

    So there’s more than an iota’s chance of Iota forming.

  8. Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #28 – 6:00 AM JST November 12 2020
    SEVERE TROPICAL STORM VAMCO (T2022)
    =============================================
    Over land Tarlac province (Luzon/Philippines)

    At 21:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Vamco (980 hPa) located at 15.5N 120.5E has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts of 85 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 16 knots.

    Storm Force Winds
    ===================
    40 nm from the center

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

  9. Thanks, Dr. Masters!
    So, a few more days of watching and hoping for the best!
    I wish that would do it for a good while.

      1. Hillsborough (worst weather 5:30 pm – 1 am)
        Tropical Storm Warning – Winds 25-45, gusts to 55
        Storm Surge Warning- 2 foot above-ground-level storm surge possible
        Flash Flood Watch – 2 to 4 inches of rain expected
        High Surf Advisory- Surf is rough, rip currents risk is high, coastal flooding is possible

  10. Thanks for the update Dr. Masters. Question.. for anyone… is this the first hurricane in history to make 4 landfalls?

    1. Yes, I suppose it depends on how you define a landfall. In this case in addition to Central America, Cuba, and now Florida you could count the Cayman Islands, Isla de Juventud, and others, whereas the brush of the Florida Keys might not count as a landfall per se. But I think any way you look at it Harvey has it beat:

      Harvey developed from a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles, reaching tropical storm status on August 17.[4] The storm crossed through the Windward Islands on the following day, making landfall on the southern end of Barbados and a second landfall on Saint Vincent. Upon entering the Caribbean Sea, Harvey began to weaken due to moderate wind shear, and degenerated into a tropical wave north of Colombia, late on August 19.[5] The remnants were monitored for regeneration as it continued west-northwestward across the Caribbean and the Yucatán Peninsula, before redeveloping over the Bay of Campeche on August 23.[6] Harvey then began to rapidly intensify on August 24, regaining tropical storm status and becoming a hurricane later that day.[7]While the storm moved generally northwest, Harvey’s intensification phase stalled slightly overnight from August 24–25; however, Harvey soon resumed strengthening and quickly became a major hurricane and attained Category 4 intensity later that day.[8] Hours later, Harvey made landfall at San José Island, Texas, at peak intensity, followed by another landfall at Holiday Beach at Category 3 intensity. Rapid weakening then ensued, and Harvey had downgraded to a tropical storm as it stalled near the coastline, dropping torrential and unprecedented amounts of rainfall over Texas.[9] On August 28, it emerged back over the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening slightly before making a fifth and final landfall in Louisiana on August 29.[10] As Harvey drifted inland, it quickly weakened again as it became extratropical on September 1, before dissipating two days later.[11]

  11. RSMC Reunion
    Tropical Cyclone Outlook – 16:00 PM RET November 11 2020
    ==============================================

    The ASCAT-A of 0130UTC shows a large closed circulation around 3.0S 92.0E (in the Indonesian Area of Responsibility), without a well defined center. Observed winds are weak within its core and reach 20 kts in the southern and eastern semicircle.According to the latest satellite images, the convective activity seems to be shifted eastward with respect to the center of the circulation.

    The suspected zone evolves towards the southwest, in good environmental conditions (no shear, no dry air intrusion in upper levels, with a good divergence, and warm waters). The tropical storm intensity will probably be reached in the next few days. There is still some uncertainty about the timing of the intensification (GFS being faster than IFS).

    The risk of tropical storm formation is moderate on Thursday and becomes high-very high on Friday east of the Chagos Archipelago.

  12. Vamco made landfall over Polillo Island and Quezon province in the Luzon region of the Philippines.
    Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #27 – 3:00 AM JST November 12 2020
    TYPHOON VAMCO (T2022)
    =============================================
    Over land Bulacan province (Luzon/Philippines)

    At 18:00 PM UTC, Typhoon Vamco (970 hPa) located at 15.1N 121.3E has 10 minute sustained winds of 70 knots with gusts of 100 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 14 knots.

    Storm Force Winds
    ===================
    60 nm from the center

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

    Dvorak Intensity:

    Forecast and Intensity
    =========================
    12 HRS: 15.3N 118.2E – 65 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) South China Sea
    24 HRS: 15.1N 116.2E – 65 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon) South China Sea
    48 HRS: 15.2N 112.2E – 60 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) South China Sea
    72 HRS: 16.5N 107.9E – 40 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) South China Sea

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