Tropical Storm Eta May Linger in Gulf the Rest of the Week

Published in 10 November, 2020

At a Glance

  • Eta is centered over the southern Gulf of Mexico.

  • Eta may gain some additional strength through Wednesday.

  • However, Eta is expected to weaken thereafter as it potentially nears the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Tropical Storm Eta could gain some additional strength in the Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday, but is then expected to weaken as it potentially approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast later in the week.

Eta is now centered in the southern Gulf of Mexico, where it’s moving slowly southward near the western tip of Cuba.

Bands of rain and gusty winds continue to feed into the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula. Flood watches are posted in South Florida, where conditions remain saturated from Eta’s heavy rainfall the past few days.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for western Cuba, including Havana. Tropical storm conditions are possible in this area through Tuesday.

(MAPS: Latest Eta Map Tracker Page)

Forecast Track, Intensity

Eta is stalled right now, but it should begin to move slowly northward through the Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday into Wednesday. It’s possible Eta briefly gains some additional strength through Wednesday.

After that, it gets a little more complicated.

Eta could simply move northward slowly toward the northern Gulf Coast late this week or this weekend ahead of a frontal system arriving from the mainland.

However, a number of forecast models suggest that high pressure may build back in place to the north of Eta, ending its northward drift and either trapping it or moving it westward for a time.

A tropical cyclone lingering in the Gulf of Mexico is typically a worrisome sign in hurricane season.

But there are two reasons why a dawdling Eta isn’t as much of a concern this time.

Dry air: The Gulf of Mexico is awash in dry air, outside of Eta. As Eta continues to spin this week, it is likely to ingest some of that dry air, at times, which will likely put a cap on its ability to intensify.

Wind shear: As Eta moves north, it is anticipated to face increasingly hostile wind shear, also an enemy to tropical storms.

The bottom line, here, is while all residents along the Gulf Coast should continue to monitor Eta, it is expected to begin weakening by late week, and may either fizzle completely over the Gulf of Mexico, or simply limp ashore as a tropical depression or low-end tropical storm late this week or this weekend.

Forecast Impacts

It’s too early to know what, if any, impacts Eta might bring to the northern Gulf Coast later this week.

In the meantime, Eta could produce an additional 1 to 2 inches of rainfall over South Florida. Parts of western Cuba could see 3 to 5 inches of additional rain.

Flash flooding is possible in areas where bands of rain track over the same area for a period of time.

Tropical moisture associated with Eta will also help to enhance rainfall along a cold front moving through the South and East Wednesday into Thursday.

The gradient between high pressure near the eastern U.S. and Eta’s lower pressure will generate gusty winds blowing onshore along Florida’s East Coast.

That will allow high surf and dangerous rip currents to linger through mid-week from Florida’s East Coast to possibly as far north as southern North Carolina.

Eventually, surf may begin to build along the northern Gulf Coast later this week, depending on the forecast for Eta.

Check back to weather.com for updates to the forecast over the next few days.

U.S. Recap

Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys at Lower Matecumbe Key on Sunday night at 11 p.m. EST. Eta was the 12th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this hurricane season, and the first official landfall for the state of Florida.

Parts of Broward County in South Florida have seen 10 to 18 inches of rainfall from Eta so far, according to the National Weather Service. The heavy rainfall caused road flooding in parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Sunday and then again on Monday morning.

Streets and neighborhoods were flooded from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach.

Sunday night, sustained winds of 57 mph with a gust to 72 mph was measured at Carysfort Reef Light in the Florida Keys. A gust to 66 mph was clocked in Fort Lauderdale.

At its peak, 57,000 customers were without power in Florida, according to poweroutages.us.

Central America Rainfall Flood Catastrophe

Nicaragua and Honduras have seen roofs ripped off of homes, trees uprooted, bridges washed out, landslides and flooded roads.

As feared, torrential rain from Eta triggered massive flooding in parts of Central America.

One of the hardest-hit areas was western Honduras.

Flooding inundated Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport near San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Water was up to the rooftops in parts of San Pedro Sula, Thursday. Video showed hundreds of people on rooftops and the second story of buildings waiting for rescue. Some had been trapped for 48 hours.

Water levels along the Ulúa River in western Honduras were said to have been 13 feet higher than the peak during Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Catastrophic flooding was also expected along the Choluteca River in the town of Marcovia, in southern Honduras, south of the capital Tegucigalpa.

(MORE: Eta Triggers Memories of Mitch 22 Years Ago)

One landslide in Guatemala reportedly claimed at least 100 lives.

Over 22 inches of rain was recorded in Tela on the Caribbean coast since Monday.

Some locations picked up over 10 inches of rain in one day, including Puerto Barrios, Guatemala (13.98 inches).

The NHC was forecasting storm totals could reach 40 inches in parts of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Eta’s Storm History

Eta is the 28th storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which ties the 2005 season for the most storms on record. It’s also the 12th hurricane of the season, which ties for the second-most on record for a year in the Atlantic.

Maximum sustained winds in Eta increased from 70 mph to 150 mph in just 18 hours ending 7 p.m. EST Monday. That’s more than double the criteria for the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, which is a wind speed increase of 35 mph or more in 24 hours or less.

At its peak late Monday and early Tuesday, Eta was the third-strongest November hurricane on record in the Atlantic by wind speed and just the fifth Atlantic Category 4 or higher hurricane to occur in the month. Paloma in 2008 was the last November Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic.

Eta was the ninth storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to undergo rapid intensification.

Eta’s central pressure plunged 82 millibars in 48 hours ending 1 a.m. ET Nov. 3, one of the largest 48-hour pressure drops on record in the Atlantic Basin, according to Sam Lillo, a NOAA researcher based in Boulder. Only hurricanes Andrew, Rita and Wilma had as large or larger pressure drops in a 48-hour period than Eta, Lillo found.

The small hurricane produced prolific lightning flashes in its eyewall Monday afternoon, one sign of its intensity.

Eta’s eye arrived along the coast of Nicaragua about 15 miles south-southwest of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua around 4 p.m. EST Tuesday. At that time, maximum sustained winds were estimated at 140 mph, a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, according to the NHC.

Eta was only the fifth Category 4 or stronger hurricane on record to landfall in Nicaragua, the first since Category 5 Hurricane Felix in 2007.

Winds had gusted up to 136 mph near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Tuesday afternoon.

The NHC forecasted a destructive storm surge inundation of 14 to 21 feet above normal tide levels near where Eta made landfall. This is roughly the magnitude of storm surge experienced during Category 5 Hurricane Felix in 2007.

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