Hurricane Eta: Storm strengthens again and threatens Florida’s Gulf Coast

Hurricane watches are in effect from Anna Maria Island to Yankeetown, Florida, meaning hurricane conditions are possible in the area within the next 24 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Maximum sustained winds are now 75 mph, with higher gusts. The storm is 170 miles from Tampa, according to the National Hurricane Center. Some further strengthening is possible today, and Eta will likely be near or above hurricane force when it makes landfall Thursday along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Eta’s is now set for landfall along the Big Bend of Florida, just to the east of Ocala, late Thursday or early Friday morning, CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said.

Whatever the wind strength at landfall, Eta is a rainmaker, Guy said.

This would be the storm’s fourth landfall. Eta first made landfall in Central America last week and as a Category 4 hurricane, then in Cuba and in Lower Matecumbe Key late Sunday.

Tropical storm warnings are currently in place for Dry Tortugas and Bonita Beach, Florida, to Suwannee River, Florida.

Areas along the Florida coastline should expect widespread rainfall of 1 to 3 inches with some areas possibly seeing as much as 5 inches through Friday, Guy said.

Subtropical Storm Theta sets a record

Meanwhile, Subtropical Storm Theta formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday night, making 2020 the most active hurricane season on record with 29 storms so far.

No watches or warnings are in place as Theta, now a tropical storm, will travel east and stay in open water before dissipating, according to the NHC.
2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts

And with weeks to go until the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season, yet another storm looks to be forming south of Puerto Rico, the NHC said, and there’s a 70% chance it will become the 30th named storm, breaking Theta’s brand-new record.

“A tropical depression is likely to form late this week or this weekend when the wave reaches the central or western Caribbean Sea,” the agency said.

This is the latest in hurricane season that two named storms have been active at the same time in the Atlantic since 1932. And Eta is the 12th named storm to make landfall along the US this season, breaking the previous record of nine set in 1916.

CNN’s Dave Hennen contributed to this report.