Tropical Storm Eta takes aim at Florida and Alabama

Tropical Storm Eta takes aim at Florida and Alabama
The latest but still uncertain direction of Tropical Storm Eta takes it to the Florida and Alabama border. (Bloomberg)

Tropical Storm Eta poses a potential threat to offshore oil and natural gas production in the western Gulf of Mexico as it gets ready to make a second landfall on the Florida coast near Alabama toward the end of the week.

Eta’s forecast track shifted west overnight in the direction of at least some of the region’s offshore oil and gas facilities, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with commercial forecaster Maxar. Where Eta eventually ends up may not become clear until later this week, but the current expectation is that it will make landfall near Pensacola late Saturday, perhaps weakening to a tropical depression in the process.

“It has really changed a lot since yesterday as far as the track goes,” Keeney said. “Until it starts moving north, bets are off in terms of the confidence in the forecast.”

AlabamaWx.com meteorologist James Spann agrees and hopes the forecast will come into better focus Wednesday. He said Eta will mostly bring rain and should not include the damaging winds Alabama has experienced with other storms this year.

A man during heavy rain and wind in Miami as Tropical Storm Eta approaches south of Florida. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys around 11 p.m. on Sunday as the record 12th storm to hit the U.S. in a single year. Although it caused some damage to orange groves, the threat to crops is now over, Keeney said. Florida is the world’s second-largest producer of orange juice behind Brazil. Meanwhile, farther east, sub-tropical storm Theta has become the record-breaking 29th system of 2020.

Eta has already left a path of destruction through Central America and the Caribbean. It previously made landfall in Cuba early Sunday with 65-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rains. The storm killed more than 100 people across Central America last week, according to the Associated Press.

Neighborhoods flooded across several parts of South Florida, including Miami’s Brickell Avenue financial district, where several banks and investment firms have their offices.

Eta adds to a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that’s seen hundreds of deaths, and billions of dollars in damage. Overnight, Theta formed about 1,000 miles southwest of the Azores and is expected to drift east across the Atlantic through the next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Tropical Storm Eta has been erratic and hard to predict. (Bloomberg)

 

So many storms have formed this year that the hurricane center used up all the names on the official list by mid-September and has had to use Greek letters to designate subsequent systems. There is a 70% chance a 30th storm will form in the Caribbean Sea in the next five days.

For the U.S., Eta’s destruction probably won’t match the tragedy still unfolding across Central America. The U.S. economic tally will probably be less than $100 million in insured losses, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler for Enki Research.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared an emergency in advance of Eta.

(With assistance from Jonathan Levin. Alabama NewsCenter contributed to this report.)

Related Stories