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Strong Rain And Breezes Even With Tampa Bay Outside Tropical Storm Eta's Forecast Cone

The greater Tampa Bay region will still be reminded this week that Tropical Storm Eta is lingering in the Gulf, even though the storm seems to be tracking away from the state.

A day after moving west of the Florida Keys and dumping heavy rain across South Florida, Eta is at a standstill – and with an uncertain future.

As of Tuesday morning, Eta was located about 80 miles north-northwest of the western tip of Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is stationary, and is forecast to remain so until it drifts north later Tuesday night into Thursday.

Maximum sustained winds are 50 mph with higher gusts. It is forecast to strengthen over the next couple of days before likely weakening on Thursday.

The hurricane center’s track as of Tuesday morning has taken the storm further west into the Gulf – with the greater Tampa Bay region outside the forecast cone.

Ray Hawthorne, meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, says Eta could remain in the Gulf of Mexico over the next several days.

“I’m expecting a slow northward drift (Tuesday) into Wednesday and there should be some strengthening,” Hawthorne said. “There’s increasing evidence wind shear and dry air will weaken Eta significantly as it drifts closer to the Florida Panhandle this weekend, but it’s a good idea to continue monitoring the storm given its tough-to-predict nature.”

Forecasters say it will move to the north as a tropical storm, approaching the Florida Panhandle and northern Gulf Coast while weakening into a tropical depression this weekend.

Even with Eta's threat to the region reduced, forecasters with the National Weather Service say Eta could produce tropical storm-force winds on Wednesday – especially near Florida’s West Coast – and periods of showers and storms through the rest of the week.

But even if the winds aren't that strong, the region can expect breezy conditions, forecasters said.

Eta also could generate minor coastal flooding starting Wednesday and Thursday as winds shift from the south, with a risk of rip currents along Tampa Bay-area beaches and tides running 1-2 feet above normal.

Drier air is forecast to move into the region starting Friday, with limited rain chances this weekend but with warm and humid conditions and average high temperatures running 5-10 degrees above normal.

Meanwhile, this unusually busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is now a historic one with the formation of Subtropical Storm Theta in the open Atlantic on Monday night. It's set a record as the 29th named storm in the Atlantic, breaking the previous mark of 28 in 2005. It is not forecast to threaten land.

Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.