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            Tropical Storm Eta path update: Eta weakens while inching closer to Florida; landfall expected Thursday

            Tropical Storm Eta track 9 p.m. Wednesday

            Eta was briefly a Category 1 hurricane this morning but has weakened to a tropical storm as of Wednesday night. The storm now appears headed for landfall in west Florida by Thursday.

            Eta strengthened to a hurricane -- and then weakened back to a tropical storm -- on Wednesday as it moved closer to Florida’s western coast, where a storm surge and tropical storm warning is now in effect.

            The National Hurricane Center said Eta has weakened slightly and had 65 mph winds as of late Wednesday. It is not expected to strengthen again as of Wednesday night, and a hurricane watch has been dropped for Florida.

            Eta was bringing heavy rain and gusty winds, along with the threat for tornadoes, to the Florida peninsula as of Wednesday night, forecasters said.

            The National Hurricane Center’s forecast track shifted more eastward — and southward — on Wednesday and now shows the storm making landfall on Thursday on the northern Florida peninsula -- anywhere from Cedar Key to Crystal River -- as a tropical storm.

            The center is moving close to the coast, however, and bringing heavy rain, storm surge and strong winds to the Tampa metro area.

            It is forecast to cross over the peninsula and emerge into the western Atlantic, and a tropical storm warning has been issued for the northeast coast of Florida and into Georgia as well.

            As of 9 p.m. CST Wednesday, the center of Tropical Storm Eta was located about 60 miles west-northwest of Tampa and was moving to the north at 12 mph.

            The hurricane center said Eta is expected to weaken slowly before it makes landfall on Thursday, and then rapidly weaken once inland.

            This will be the second landfall Eta makes in Florida. It made landfall on Lower Matecumbe Key on Nov. 8 as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds. It also has had landfalls in Cuba and Nicaragua.

            Tropical storm force winds extend out from the center up to 115 miles mainly on the northeast side, the hurricane center said

            The hurricane center said that Albert Whitted Airport near St. Petersburg recently reported sustained winds of 40 mph and a gust of 52 mph. A Weatherflow site in Tampa Bay recently measured sustained winds of 45 mph and a gust of 59 mph.

            Storm surge and tropical storm warnings and watches continued for Florida’s west coast.

            * A storm surge warning is in effect from Bonita Beach to the Suwanee River, including Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.

            * A storm surge watch is in effect from the Steinhatchee River to the Suwannee River.

            * A tropical storm warning is in effect from Boca Grande to the Suwannee River on Florida’s Gulf Coast as well as on the east coast of Florida from the Flagler/Volusia county line northward to St. Andrews Sound, Ga.

            * A tropical storm watch continues from north of the Suwannee River to the Aucilla River in Florida.

            The storm surge forecast has crept upward as of Wednesday afternoon. Now 3 to 5 feet of surge will be possible along the Florida west coast from the Anclote River to Boca Grande, including Tampa Bay.

            Eta could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to the western Florida peninsula, with some areas getting up to 6 inches. North and South Florida could also get 1 to 2 inches of rain.

            Tropical storm conditions are expected in the tropical storm warning area this evening and overnight. Tropical storm conditions will be possible in the watch area along the Florida Big Bend region by Thursday, forecasters said.

            Eta is forecast to move northeastward into the western Atlantic late Thursday or early Friday.


            It’s mid-November, but there is more than one storm in the Atlantic being watched.

            There’s also Tropical Storm Theta, which formed on Tuesday and broke the record for most named storms in a single season in the Atlantic (at 29).

            Tropical Storm Theta track 9 p.m. Wednesday

            Tropical Storm Theta is headed eastward on Wednesday and is expected to weaken.

            Theta was in the eastern Atlantic and no threat to the U.S.

            As of 9 p.m. CST Wednesday, Tropical Storm Theta was located 540 miles south-southwest of the Azores islands and was moving east-northeast at 12 mph.

            Theta had top winds of 65 mph, down from 70 mph on Tuesday.

            The hurricane center expects Theta to weaken over the next two days.

            Then there’s a third spot to watch, this time in the Caribbean.

            tropical outlook Wednesday afternoon

            A tropical wave in the Caribbean could become a depression by this weekend.

            The hurricane center said a tropical disturbance there could become a tropical depression later this week or over the weekend as it moves toward the western Caribbean (in the same area where Eta formed).

            Right now it’s in the eastern Caribbean, and is forecast to bring heavy rain to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and parts of Hispaniola during the next day or two.

            It’s too soon to say if it could eventually be something for the U.S. to worry about.

            The next name on the storm list, which is using the Greek alphabet for names now, is Iota.

            The Atlantic hurricane season comes to a much-anticipated close on Nov. 30.