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Our latest analysis video is above and tropical analysis column is below. A public version of our fall hurricane outlook, detailing our reasoning behind a forecast for a very active season latter third of the season ahead, is now available here.
WeatherTiger Tropical Storm Eta Update for November 11th
In the past 24 hours, Tropical Storm Eta came to a fork in the Gulf of Mexico and took it, decisively tracking quicker and closer to Florida than earlier forecasts. On this faster path, Eta will cross North Florida early on Thursday, spreading gusty winds, briefly heavy rain, and coastal surge to portions of the Florida Gulf Coast.
Per the 4 p.m. NHC advisory, maximum sustained winds in Eta have dropped to 70 mph, with the center of circulation located about 75 miles west-southwest of St. Petersburg, moving just east of north at around 12 mph. Overnight, Eta’s center jumped northeast due to a powerful convective burst, which briefly lifted it back to Category 1 hurricane intensity.
As I mentioned yesterday, Eta’s track forecast was closely tied to how much it strengthened into Wednesday. Tuesday’s overnight round of intensification and the eastward reformation of the center early on Wednesday allowed Eta to connect with the strong steering currents associated with a dip in the Jet Stream over the east-central U.S.
These upper-level winds will therefore accelerate Eta north and northeast through the day on Thursday, much in-line with the faster and stronger scenario laid out in this column yesterday. Eta will reach the Florida Gulf Coast in the vicinity of Cedar Key around daybreak on Thursday, or perhaps slightly farther north near Steinhatchee with faster weakening.
Shortly after peaking early on Wednesday as a Category 1, Eta lost most of its intense convection as increasing southwesterly shear brought an incursion of dry air into the core of the hurricane. Since then, more modest convection has been pulsing and fading, mostly north and east of the center, while the low-level center itself is exposed.
Aircraft reports confirm central pressures are rising, and Eta will keep weakening into landfall due to shear, dry air, and the tepid sea surface temperatures of the northeast Gulf. Expect a landfall intensity in the ballpark of 50 mph, with these low-end tropical storm force winds mostly east of the center. Eta will quickly drop below tropical storm intensity Thursday as it races inland up the Suwannee River Valley.
As with many disorganized tropical storms, Eta’s effects will be skewed to the east of the circulation center. Let’s break down what impacts different regions of Florida can expect over the next 12 to 24 hours.
Western Panhandle: Minimal impacts
West of the Apalachicola River, there will be few indications of a nearby tropical storm. Bone dry air is flooding the western half of the storm, so any rainfall will be brief and minimal in the western Panhandle. Offshore winds mean no surge issues. A nice day.
Big Bend: Some rainfall, but no big deal
With Eta generally following the Suwannee River through noon Thursday, even the Big Bend is likely to see modest impacts west of the circulation center. Off-and-on rainfall (more off than on) will continue in bands overnight and into mid-morning, ending by noon. These rains will be more persistent in the eastern Big Bend, but mostly total 1” or less.
Eta’s asymmetry and fast motion mean wind gusts are likely to remain below tropical storm strength (39 mph) inland, with a few late morning gusts from the north topping out at perhaps 30 mph in Tallahassee. Offshore flow means low surge impact west of Steinhatchee.
North Central Florida: Gusty and squally through mid-day Thursday
Inland North Florida from the Suwannee River east to Daytona Beach and north to Jacksonville will catch the dirty side of Eta late in the overnight hours through early afternoon Thursday. Expect intermittent bands ahead of steadier rainfall arriving before dawn and clearing from south to north by late morning, with overall rainfall totals on the order of 1-2”.
Squalls embedded within these heavier bands are likely to bring peak wind gusts in the 40 to 50 mph range to Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Daytona Beach. Some higher gusts are also possible close to the immediate coast.
West Central Florida: Overnight surge threat, continuing rain and wind
The peninsular Gulf Coast has already been experiencing heavy weather in the last 12 to 24 hours, including gusts in the 50 to 60 mph from Tampa south to Naples. Heavy rainfall and tropical storm force gusts will diminish south of Tampa into early Thursday.
For the Nature Coast, the worst of Eta will come overnight and tail off around sunrise as Eta makes landfall. Coastal wind gusts in the 50s or lower 60s are likely, with low-end tropical storm force gusts possible east to Sumter and Lake Counties. These winds will drive up to three to five feet or storm surge from Tampa Bay north to Cedar Key. There is also a risk of some tornadoes in bands east of Eta’s center. Look for improving conditions by mid-morning.
Overall, the surge impacts for Tampa and north are the most threatening of what Eta has on offer; as always, heed any emergency management action statements and keep a means of receiving alerts with you until the storm passes. All of Florida should see clearing skies by Thursday afternoon, with sunshine continuing through the weekend as the unlucky 13th and hopefully final U.S. landfall of the baffling 2020 hurricane season goes into the books. Keep watching the skies.
Dr. Ryan Truchelut is co-founder and chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based start-up providing advanced weather and climate analytics, consulting, and forecasting solutions to enterprises large and small. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Twitter (@wx_tiger) or Facebook. Get this forecast first by registering for our Hurricane Forecasting Subscription package.