Tropical storm Eta, lingering off the west coast of Florida, was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 1235 UTC today, before weakening to a tropical storm by 1800 UTC. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported heavy rains and gusty winds across west-central Florida. As of 1800 UTC, Eta was 115 miles southwest of Tampa with maximum sustained winds of 70 MPH with higher gusts — just shy of Category 1 hurricane status — moving north-northeast at 10 MPH. On its current track, Eta will move closer to — but just offshore — the west-central Florida coast today and tonight before moving inland over the northern portion of the Florida peninsula on Thursday. Eta is expected to continue northeastward into the Atlantic late Thursday or early Friday.
“To say this 2020 hurricane season has been a busy one is an understatement!” said Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. He cited the NHC’s 1500 UTC discussion that suggested Eta had peaked in intensity, and that an eye feature is no longer evident in radar or passive microwave satellite imagery.
“However, there still remains a band of strong convection in the northeastern quadrant that contains Doppler radar velocity values of 80 – 88 knots between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, which corresponds to equivalent surface winds of at least 65 knots,” the NHC earlier discussion continued. “As long as that feature persists, hurricane-force winds are possible along immediate coastal areas within the hurricane watch area.”
The Hurricane Watch Net is at Level 3 status, which means a tropical cyclone could become a hurricane and threaten the HWN’s region of interest within the next 48 hours.
The Hillsborough County ARES/RACES group in the ARRL West Central Florida Section (WCF) has been requested to staff five shelters, Section Manager Darrell Davis, KT4WX, told ARRL. “Other counties here in the ARRL West Central Florida Section are on standby as well. A regional SKYWARN net has been activated on the NI4CE repeater system.
Davis said he’s been disseminating WCF Section Special Bulletins to keep ARRL members and the amateur community in his Section informed. These are posted on the Section’s website and duplicated on the Section’s Facebook page and ARRL membership list.
“For now, we will keep a very close eye on Eta,” Graves said. “Should Eta regain integrity and strength, it could make landfall as a hurricane. If Eta looks to be a Hhrricane at landfall, we will, of course, activate. For now, we are on stand-by.”
Southern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator John Wells, W4CMH, told ARES Emergency Coordinators in his section, “This storm has proven to be unpredictable, so please keep a close eye on the storm as it progresses and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.”
Warned Graves, “Don’t drop your guard. It appears that Tropical Cyclone Iota is trying to develop in the southwestern Caribbean. Stay tuned!”