For a brief, beautiful moment, it looked like Eta was going to leave us alone. At 7 AM Eastern, the NHC forecast cone had the storm staying out in the Gulf of Mexico and maybe making landfall somewhere near the Alabama/Florida border.
Now, at 10 PM Eastern, the projected landfall has shifted almost 300 (!) miles to the east since this morning, with landfall now expected late Thursday somewhere roughly near Crystal River, FL. Eta is still expected to be only a tropical storm at that time, though there’s some thinking that the forecast may be adjusted to reflect a brief re-strengthening to hurricane status before weakening again prior to landfall.
With this shift, there’s now a 20%-30% chance of tropical storm force winds (39+ MPH) in the Attractions area as the storm approaches. That forecast will be more fine-tuned over the coming 24 hours or so. We’re also waiting to see what the rain impacts for our area will be. A lot of it will depend on how widespread the system ends up being. During its pass over the Florida Keys, the tropical storm force wind field extended all the way up into the central part of the state. At the moment, there are tropical storm warnings for the Gulf coast, but no inland warnings affecting the Attractions Area. The National Hurricane Center has noted that additional warnings could be required by Wednesday morning, so this is a system worth watching over the next 24-48 hours.
A few final notes from the National Hurricane Center…
1. LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE IS POSSIBLE THURSDAY ALONG PORTIONS OF THE FLORIDA GULF COAST FROM BONITA BEACH TO STEINHATCHEE RIVER, INCLUDING TAMPA BAY AND CHARLOTTE HARBOR. RESIDENTS IN THIS AREA SHOULD FOLLOW ANY ADVICE GIVEN BY LOCAL OFFICIALS. 2. TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS ARE EXPECTED BY LATE WEDNESDAY ALONG PORTIONS OF THE FLORIDA GULF COAST FROM BONITA BEACH TO SUWANEE RIVER, AND ARE POSSIBLE THURSDAY FROM SUWANNEE RIVER TO AUCILLA RIVER. INTERESTS ELSEWHERE ALONG THE FLORIDA GULF COAST SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF ETA, AS ADDITIONAL WATCHES AND WARNINGS MAY BE NEEDED OVERNIGHT. 3. HEAVY RAINFALL FROM ETA WILL CONTINUE ACROSS WESTERN CUBA AND SOUTH FLORIDA THROUGH TONIGHT, AND SPREAD NORTHWARD ACROSS PORTIONS OF WEST FLORIDA, THE EASTERN FLORIDA PANHANDLE, AND NORTH FLORIDA WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. ADDITIONAL FLASH AND URBAN FLOODING IS POSSIBLE IN SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT, ESPECIALLY ACROSS PREVIOUSLY INUNDATED AREAS, AND EVENTUALLY ACROSS PORTIONS OF WEST FLORIDA, THE EASTERN FLORIDA PANHANDLE, AND NORTH FLORIDA WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY.
There is much to watch over the next few days. This is NOT expected to be a major hurricane, but we should keep a continued eye out for gusty winds, heavy rain, and any fluctuations in movement or intensity in this highly-uncertain storm. Keep calm and carry on!