The 2020 hurricane season continues its relentless attack as Tropical Storm ETA, the 28th storm of the season,With heavy rain and strong winds. Central America is usually a graveyard for hurricanes – but not ETA. Increasingly, forecasters are concerned that ETA will re-emerge over the warm waters of the Caribbean and then head towards Florida this weekend.
For now, ETA is gradually weakening over land, but is expected to head to the Caribbean on Friday and move northeast. The models show a reorganization of the system, with some modest reinforcements this weekend over the Caribbean and the Florida Straits, north of Cuba. Along this route, it seems likely that there will be at least two other excuses: Cuba on Sunday and possibly South Florida on Monday.
If ETA made landfall along the US coast, it would break the record for most so-called storms to make landfall in the US in one season, at 12. If hurricane strength regained, it would break the record for most US hurricanes landing on land.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Tropical Storm Eta is inland near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, and continues to move westward into Central America. The system is expected to weaken further to a tropical depression but continue to flood with flash floods and cause flash floods.
Later in the week, ETA will begin to feel the impact of steering the upper level northward causing the storm to turn to the right, pushing it back over the hot northern Caribbean waters. While some condensation is possible, it will be limited, at least initially, because ETA will have to deal with some dry air, upper wind shear, interaction with landmass in Cuba, and limited time.
By Saturday, the system will cross Cuba, likely as a tropical storm, and then head towards southern Florida. It remains uncertain how strong ETA will be and the degree to which the storm will affect southern Florida. ETA is likely to be either a strong tropical storm or even a low-end hurricane. Some models show direct success, while others show a lightning-knuckle hit the Florida Keys.
Regardless of the exact route, ETA will bring a period of extremely humid weather across South Florida from Friday through early next week. Depending on the track, it appears likely that there will be more than a foot of rain in some areas.
After the storm has passed south of Florida, most models show it wandering west to the Gulf of Mexico early next week. The waters of the Gulf are still warm enough for ETA to regain strength again. Although it is too early to tell if and where another landing could take place, some guidelines point to the possibility of another landing on the Gulf Coast by the middle of next week.