Tropical Storm Eta is currently penciled in to make landfall near Pensacola just after midnight on Sunday at less than hurricane strength. But forecasters are ready to erase that track and pencil in a new one every few hours, as the shifty storm continues to defy computer model predictions.
The infamous “cone of uncertainty” shows a wide range of potential landfall areas between Tallahassee, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana, making storm preparations more difficult.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz expressed frustration with the difficulty of storm planning with Eta.
“Here’s the one thing I know for sure, is that nobody knows what’s next for Tropical Storm Eta,” Moskowitz said late Monday. “There’s tracks that take it from north of Tampa, to all the way to Louisiana. So, obviously, we would hate to see our friends in Louisiana, you know, deal with another one of these, but we also don’t want it to come into the Big Bend area.”
The storm already soaked the Florida Keys and parts of South Florida over the weekend with rainfall as high as 10 inches, with winds that knocked out power to an estimated 40,000 homes and businesses.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned on Monday that Eta, which made landfall in Nicaragua as a hurricane last week, could return to hurricane strength in the Gulf of Mexico, but a large patch of dry air moving into the area could also weaken the storm as it approaches the Gulf Coast.
The oddly named storm is the 28th of year, tying the record for most active storm seasons, which forced hurricane forecasters to dip into a secondary list of names derived from the Greek alphabet after they used up the original list of 21 names set aside for the 2020 storm season. The record was broken overnight with the formation of Subtropical Storm Theta in the mid-Atlantic. However, Theta is headed east, toward the coast of North Africa or Southern Spain.