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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross


Tropical Storm Eta pummeled the Tampa Bay area with gusty winds yesterday, and flooded the low-lying sections on the barrier islands along St. Petersburg Beach, downtown Tampa, and the surrounding areas. Gulf water levels there were measured 3 to 4 feet above normal high tide. The storm finally made landfall north of Tampa overnight and is tracking across North Florida today. Eta should finally be dying out in the Atlantic off the Southeast coast by tomorrow night.

In the Caribbean, a new tropical depression will form at any time. The computer forecast models all predict it will quickly become Tropical Storm Iota and threaten Central America next week.

We are almost finished with Tropical Storm Eta, but it has one last hurrah today. The center of the storm is tracking across North Florida bringing winds gusting to 40 or 45 mph in spots with heavy rain rotating north into South Carolina. Most of the bad weather, however, is over the Atlantic Ocean off the North Florida coast.

But extending to the south from Eta is the ever-so-annoying tail of the storm – the main tropical moisture feed into the circulation. It is once again draped the length of the Florida peninsula and will continue to bring bands of heavy rain rotating through South Florida today.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch until tonight for the possibility that rainfall will once again overwhelm drainage systems and flood neighborhoods. Be especially careful today if you are driving and the rain gets heavy. Flooding could come on quickly.

Tomorrow, Eta and its main moisture feed should be offshore of Florida and out to sea. The system is forecast to be absorbed into a strong cold front in the next couple of days.

To the south in the Caribbean, we are close to having Tropical Depression Thirty or Tropical Storm Iota. In any case, it is likely to intensify into a tropical storm over the weekend or early next week.

At the same time that Tropical Storm Iota is forming, a strong cold front – the same one that will absorb Eta – is forecast to be moving through Florida. The flow pushing the front south should also keep Iota in the Caribbean for the foreseeable future. The long-range computer models show the storm impacting Central America next week. Recall that Hurricane Eta caused widespread flooding and landslides in Nicaragua, Honduras, and the surrounding countries just last week. There is no indication that Iota will turn north like Eta did.

We say, by the way, “not one iota of truth” because iota is the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet, comparable to our letter “i.” So the saying means, “not the smallest element of truth.”

In the far eastern Atlantic, Tropical Storm Theta is still going strong. It is just under hurricane strength. Theta is heading toward Portugal, but is forecast to be absorbed by the northern jet stream before it gets there.

During this hurricane season, 12 storms have made landfall on the U.S. coastline. At least 4 of them have billion-dollar-plus price tags, pending an accounting of Eta. Hurricane Laura, as the only Category 4 to make landfall, was by far the most expensive. Although Tropical Storm Isaias was surprisingly damaging at $5 billion.

In general terms, this season ranks second in activity after 2005. That infamous year had more intense hurricanes, even though this year has produced slightly more total named storms.

I hate to jinx things, but the next letter after Iota is Kappa. There are no signs of a Kappa forming at the moment.


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