There are some big changes in the forecast for Tropical Storm Eta as of Tuesday night.
The forecast path has shifted back to the east, and the timeline has sped up a great deal. Instead of coming ashore on the Florida Panhandle as a tropical storm this weekend, the latest forecast has Eta making landfall as a tropical storm in the vicinity of Florida’s Big Bend as soon as Thursday or Friday.
Tropical storm watches have been upgraded to warnings for the Gulf Coast side of the Florida peninsula, and another tropical storm warning continued for the Dry Tortugas in the Keys.
A storm surge watch has also been put in place for Florida, including Tampa Bay.
Is this the last track shift? Not likely. The hurricane center noted late Tuesday that there is still considerable model spread. More eastward shifts may be possible.
“While there is increasing confidence in the faster north-northeastward motion in the short-term, there is still considerable uncertainty by 48 hours and beyond, and further adjustments to the track forecast could be required overnight,” forecasters said.
Eta was just north of the western tip of Cuba on Tuesday night and will eventually will turn more to the north, according to forecasters.
The center of Eta is forecast to track closer to but stay offshore of Florida’s southwest on Wednesday, approach the west-central coast of Florida Wednesday night, and move inland over the northern portion of the Florida peninsula on Thursday.
It is still not forecast to become a hurricane -- although it is still possible -- and could weaken instead as it nears the Gulf Coast thanks to increasing wind shear, cooler water and dry air near the coast.
As of 9 p.m. CST Tuesday, Tropical Storm Eta was located about 315 miles south-southwest of Tampa, Fla., and was moving north-northeast at 9 mph after being nearly stationary all day.
Eta’s winds rose to 65 mph, up from 50 mph on Monday. Hurricane force winds begin at 74 mph.
The hurricane center said Eta could be near hurricane strength by Wednesday night or Thursday morning but would then start to weaken. It is forecast to be a tropical storm when it nears the Gulf Coast.
The National Weather Service in Mobile was closely watching Eta on Tuesday and said it will cause dangerous rip currents and hazardous boating conditions along the Alabama and northwest Florida coasts this week.
“Confidence on other impacts remains very low at this time as they will be dependent on Eta’s eventual track,” the weather service said.
Here’s a look at the warnings and watches as of Tuesday night:
* A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Dry Tortugas from Bonita Beach to Suwannee River in Florida.
* A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Bonita Beach to the Steinhatchee River in Florida, including Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.
* A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth and in Florida from north of the Suwannee River to the Aucilla River.
Three to 5 inches of rain will be possible in western Cuba, with storm total rainfall approaching 25 inches in some areas.
Eta could bring an additional inch to 2 inches of rain to South Florida, which could get up to 20 inches from the storm before it is over.
Two to 4 feet of surge will be possible in the storm surge watch area in Florida, the hurricane center said.
Tropical storm conditions will be possible along the Florida west coast by late Wednesday, forecasters said. Tropical Storm conditions are possible in the watch area along the Florida Big Bend region by Thursday.
Eta is not the only storm in the Atlantic. The hurricane center said Tropical Storm Theta had formed in the northeastern Atlantic early this morning and was headed eastward. Theta had been a subtropical storm but became fully tropical on Tuesday night.
Theta is the 29th named storm of 2020, which breaks the record of named storms set in 2005.
It’s also the first time we’ve made it all the way to Theta in the Greek alphabet.
Theta is no threat to the U.S.
Forecasters are also watching a tropical wave in the Caribbean that could develop into yet another tropical depression or storm over the weekend or early next week as it heads westward.
It’s too soon to say if that system could eventually affect the U.S.
The Atlantic hurricane season will end on Nov. 30.