LATEST FORECAST TRACK FROM NOAA
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER TRACK AND WIND FORECAST
Floridians awoke today to discover that Tropical Storm Eta had strengthened into Category 1 Hurricane Eta and was quickly bearing down on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Keep up with all Eta-related developments as you hurry up and get ready.
11:45 p.m. ET: Two northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge closed due to dangerous conditions
The Florida Highway Patrol reported the eastbound right two lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge were closed just after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night due to storm surge flowing into the roadway.
Water and heavy wind gusts were spraying over the seawall and onto the highway, creating dangerous conditions for drivers traveling from St. Petersburg into Tampa. It is unclear at this time if authorities plan to close all lanes on the bridge.
11:30 p.m. ET: Waters continue to rise in Hillsborough, Pinellas neighborhoods
High tides and storm surge continued to force major roadways to close in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties Wednesday night. Along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, water pooled over the asphalt and began to creep into neighbor’s front yards.
Jill Corcoran, 59, spent most of Wednesday night watching the water rise from her home on Bayshore and drivers get stuck in it.
“For a while it looked like Bayshore in reverse,” she said.
By 11:30 p.m., the water was nearly waist deep on both sides of the street. High tide for Davis Islands came around 11:19 p.m.
Corcoran said she’s lived on Bayshore Boulevard for 15 years, including through Hurricane Charlie and Wilma. She said the water rose higher for Tropical Storm Eta than any storm she’s seen ever hit Tampa Bay.
“It’s surprising,” she said. "It doesn’t ever come this high. And it’s sticking around this time.”
Some Bayshore front yards have three or four inches of standing water. Corcoran’s home, however, appeared to be safe.
- Josh Fiallo
10:00 p.m. ET: Road closures in Pinellas County include the Courtney Campbell Causeway
As flooding spreads throughout Pinellas County, officials announced Wednesday night the closure of the southbound lanes of Duhme Road in Seminole between American Legion Drive and Tom Stuart Causeway. The Courtney Campbell Causeway is also closed in both directions.
County officials said that more closures are expected to happen later in the night. A news release said that “major street flooding” is taking place in low-lying areas and around Pinellas beaches.
County officials also sent out a reminder to motorists who do drive tonight, telling them to avoid driving into standing water.
“Turn around, don’t drown,” the county said in the release.
- Josh Fiallo
8:00 p.m. ET: 6,100 without power in Pinellas, 1,241 out in Hillsborough
More than 6,100 Duke Energy Florida customers were without power around the state as of 7:30 p.m., according to its outage map.
The vast majority of those affected - 5,584 - were concentrated in Pinellas County, where Duke Energy serves more than half a million customers. Another 11 customers in Pasco County were without power. For both counties, Duke Energy doesn’t yet have an estimate for when power will be restored.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times earlier Wednesday, spokeswoman Ana Gibbs said the utility anticipates outages along its coastal territories because of the high wind speeds. It serves areas from Pinellas County up to Mexico Beach, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018. It pulled in 350 contractors from its branches in the midwest and North and South Carolina to help restore power after the storm.
Tampa Electric Co., which primarily serves Hillsborough County, reported 1,241 outages at that time. The bulk of its outages were concentrated just west of Plant City (154 customers), southwest of Sun City Center (178 customers affected) and south Tampa (91 customers). Most of its outages, the power company’s map said, are expected to be resolved by midnight.Tampa Electric, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said, hasn’t called on out-of-state help based on the current forecast. It has its normal crews and contractors ready to restore power during and after the storm.
- Malena Carollo
6:03 p.m. ET: Live views from webcams
High tides approaching, bringing possible storm surge to Tampa Bay coastal areas
Coastal flooding could affect areas of Pinellas County Wednesday night as high tides were expected as early as 8:40 p.m. on Clearwater Beach, according to Bay News 9. High tide was expected around 9:45 p.m. in Gulfport, 10:54 p.m. in Crystal River and 11:17 p.m. in St. Petersburg.
Some areas of Pinellas County were already experiencing storm surge around 9:30 p.m. High water levels on Gulf Boulevard on Madeira Beach was diverting traffic to other roads.
Gulfport, in southern Pinellas County, had water up to two-feet deep along its downtown business corridor.
VA Hospitals Closed Thursday in Tampa Bay, MacDill issues shelter-in-place order
The C.W. Bill Young Medical Center of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg will be closed to in-person appointments Thursday, with its emergency department remaining open according to an advisory sent out Wednesday evening.
The Bradenton, Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota Community Based Outpatient Clinics will also be closed to in-person appointments on Thursday. Veterans requiring immediate urgent care can call 1-877-741-3400 for support. Appointments at the Lecanto clinic under the Tampa VA system will go virtual Thursday as well, according to the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital Facebook page.
MacDill Air Force Base announced a shelter-in-place order for all base personnel on Wednesday, according to its Facebook page.
“Based on forecasted hazardous weather, all base personnel restrict movement and seek shelter between hours of 8 p.m., Nov. 11 through 3 a.m., Nov. 12,” it read.
- Ileana Najarro
5:34 p.m. ET: Pinellas County officials: Stop prepping, take shelter
Pinellas County officials are urging residents to conclude hurricane preparations and prepare to shelter in place Wednesday evening. Tropical Storm Eta, moving faster than forecasted, is expected to bring heavy rain and 3 to 5 feet of storm surge as it arrives during the evening hours near high tide.
The winds and possible flood conditions will make driving unsafe and outdoor conditions dangerous. Emergency Management staff recommend people stay home overnight, calling 7 p.m. to midnight the period of heaviest impact. People should not drive, walk or swim through flood waters.
— Caitlin Johnston
5:24 p.m. ET: Checking in from Tampa Bay neighborhoods
Back down in Tarpon Springs. Some pretty bad flooding on Riverside Drive. (Pls ignore my yelp.) pic.twitter.com/3Hrg7AbUKo— Kathryn Varn (@kathrynvarn) November 11, 2020
5:00 p.m. ET: Tornado Warning until 5:30 in Tampa Bay counties
The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties until 5:30 p.m. The NWS said that radar indicated waterspout was located just offshore over Gulf Gate Estates, or near Sarasota, moving north at 45 mph at around 5 p.m. It was expected to be near Ellenton and Bradenton at 5:20 p.m. and near Palmetto at 5:25 p.m.
4:38 p.m. ET: Tampa Mayor Castor holds press conference
In a 4:30 p.m. press conference, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said there have been no reported flooding in the city and no road closures as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Even though it looks calm out here right now, the weather can change in an instant,” Castor said. “This one has changed its trajectory more than once and it may do it again. We want to ensure that everyone is safe.”
Castor said she had not heard from Gov. Ron DeSantis about hurricane preparations, but that city officials have been in close contact with county and state emergency management.
— Justine Griffin
4:11 p.m. ET: Shoppers rush for supplies at Tampa Bay stores
Tropical Storm Eta canceled plans all over Tampa Bay Wednesday after briefly strengthening to a hurricane. Eta’s latest path is projected to make landfall near Tampa Bay, sending shoppers out in droves in search of bread, batteries and packs of water.
Checkout lines at Aldi on U.S. 19 and 15th Avenue N stretched into the aisles, as shoppers leaned patiently over carts packed with canned goods and other pantry staples. Winn-Dixie employees hammered steel shutters over large glass windows. Home Depot’s table saws buzzed steadily, filling the store on 22nd Avenue N with the scent of fresh-cut plywood.
Some stores sold out of certain items, like bottled water, by the afternoon.
— Sara DiNatale and Natalie Weber
3:44 p.m. ET: Eta is coming. Here’s what to expect from your insurance.
If you have property, flood or business interruption insurance, now is the time to figure out what your coverage entails and to get a few things in order, said Mark Friedlander, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute.
Our explainer answers insurance questions such as, “Is it too late to get insurance if I don’t have it already?,” “What if my car gets flooded?” and “How do I know for sure what’s covered?”
— Malena Carollo
3:40 p.m. ET: Some take advantage of waves
At Pinellas County beaches, such as Sunset Beach on Treasure Island, some were taking advantage of the larger than usual waves brought on by approaching Tropical Storm Eta.
The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory until Thursday morning and advises of a high rip current risk through Friday morning.
3:20 p.m. ET: Quiet at Hillsborough shelter
Five schools, already off for Veteran’s Day in Hillsborough County, were transformed into hurricane shelters on Wednesday. But, as Eta weakened from a hurricane back to a tropical storm, only a dozen staff members occupied the cafeteria-turned-shelter at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz by 3 p.m., said shelter manager Sarah Watts-Casinger.
Watts-Casinger typically works at downtown Tampa’s John F. Germany Library. Like many Hillsborough County Library Service workers, however, she was called into shelter duty at 6 a.m. this morning. The call took her by surprise — but she didn’t hesitate to get her shelter ready. “You can’t say no,” she said. “It’s in the job description when you apply. I just did what I had to do.”
Protocol at Steinbrenner — and at other shelters in the county — called for temperature checks at the shelter’s entrance. Those who displayed symptoms of COVID-19 would be taken to a secure “isolation room,” said Watts-Casinger, while others were to be kept as distant as possible. Masks were required at all times.
— Josh Fiallo
2:55 p.m. ET: Wind gusts high across Tampa Bay area
As the outer bands of Tropical Storm Eta have lashed Florida’s west coast, the National Weather Service reported high winds coming in gusts around Tampa Bay and the surrounding counties.
At Demens Landing in St. Petersburg, a gust of 55 mph wind was recorded at 12:30 p.m., and a gust of 46 mph was recorded at 2:22 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. At the University of Tampa in Tampa, a gust of 52 mph was recorded at 2:11 p.m.
Charlotte County experienced a 65 mph, Longboat Key saw a gust of 54 mph and Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County saw a gust of 50 mph, all this afternoon.
Tropical storm force winds range from 39 to 73 mph.
— Christopher Spata
2:43 p.m. ET: Power outages during Eta?
Tampa Bay power companies representatives say they are ready to respond to Tropical Storm Eta, which is expected to make landfall Thursday. Duke Energy is anticipating outages along its coastal territory because of the storm’s strong winds.
Duke Energy called in 350 contractors from their branches in the Midwest and North and South Carolina to help with any power restoration necessary after the storm. Tampa Electric, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the utility didn’t bring in outside crews based on the storm’s forecast as of Wednesday. “Were keeping an eye on things,” Jacobs said.
Both utilities said they are suspending disconnections for customers who can’t pay their bills during the storm.
— Malena Carollo
2:02 pm. ET: An update on what’s closed for Eta
Tropical Storm Eta is approaching, and local services, facilities and businesses have announced closures and cancellations. Bus service has been stopped in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. School districts ended classes early, and announced plans for the rest of the week, while most local colleges and universities have kept their options open. Some businesses have closed, parks and public restrooms in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are closed, and performances have been canceled at the Straz Center and attractions such as ZooTampa at Lowry Park have shuttered. The Tampa International Airport will close at 3 p.m., and Veterans Day celebrations postponed.
Our list of closures and cancellations will be updated throughout the day here.
1:44 p.m. ET: Pinellas County nursing homes not evacuating
Pinellas County nursing homes are not currently evacuating and there is not a plan to order any evacuations, wrote Cathie Perkins, Pinellas County Emergency Management director, in an email.
— Bailey LeFever
1:34 p.m. ET: Checking in from Tarpon Springs sponge docks and gift shops
I’m checking out the Tarpon Springs sponge docks as #Eta grows closer and closer to Tampa Bay. Rain is steady, wind is picking up and sandbags are lining some businesses. @TB_Times pic.twitter.com/I2Rr0lVgtL— Kathryn Varn (@kathrynvarn) November 11, 2020
Filed under extremely Tarpon Springs sights: Sponge diver Anastasios "Taso" Karistinos, hanging out in his boat as the rain picks up.— Kathryn Varn (@kathrynvarn) November 11, 2020
He wants to keep an eye on the water levels to protect his
“investment, and the source of my living,” he said. pic.twitter.com/pKIDK8RMhN
Kleopatra Georgiou, owner of Nina’s Gift Shop, picked up a couple sandbags from the city as a precaution, but after 40 years in Tarpon, she’s unfazed. “Every year we have something,” she said.— Kathryn Varn (@kathrynvarn) November 11, 2020
Plus, her late husband, Terry (pictured in 1993), is watching over her, she said. pic.twitter.com/J9fLa62naA
1:24 p.m. ET: Photos: Tampa Bay prepares for Eta
Tropical Storm Eta strengthened to a hurricane Wednesday morning before it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm again as it churns off the coast of Florida. Tampa Bay Times photographers captured scenes from around the area as residents scrambled to prepare for possible high winds and heavy rain.
1:10 p.m. ET: Kriseman confident in St. Pete water systems, sandbags available
Mayor Rick Kriseman declared a state of emergency within St. Petersburg ahead of Hurricane Eta’s worst impact. The order expedites preparation and recovery and prohibits price gouging, among other measures. The mayor also encouraged residents to take regular storm precautions, like moving lightweight furniture so they don’t get blown away and become projectiles.
To that end, the city opened up sandbag stations at Northeast Park, 875 62nd Ave. NE, and the Northwest Pool, 2331 60th St. N.Officials also canceled Thursday’s City Council and committee meetings. Kriseman said the challenge with this storm isn’t the intensity, but the surprise attack it’s waging on Florida’s Gulf coast. A last minute change of direction and recent intensification to hurricane strength put the Tampa Bay area in the storm’s soak zone.
“We’re ready to deal with whatever we end up getting because of this,” Kriseman said. He said flow rates within the city’s stormwater and wastewater systems were normal and he expressed confidence their capacities would not be exceeded. In 2015-16, those systems were inundated by heavy rains, causing them to release millions of gallons of wastewater. “We don’t anticipate having any problems, even with the forecast as it is, with our system,” he said. “If we have power outages, or something fluky happens, we’ll have to deal with that.”
Kriseman said he has been in touch with county officials, but has not heard from the state. He said he doesn’t expect to hear from Gov. Ron DeSantis. “When Rick Scott was governor, if there was a storm approaching, he always called just to let me know that if there was anything I needed, I had his number and I could give him a call,” Kriseman said. “I truthfully don’t expect that to happen with our current governor, because I’ve never received a call from him his entire time in office and I don’t expect him to start now.” Kriseman said he does have a relationship with the state’s director of emergency management, Jared Moskowitz, with whom he’s communicated about the pandemic.
— Josh Solomon
1:00 p.m. ET: Eta downgraded to tropical storm
The National Hurricane Center says that Eta has weakened back to a Tropical Storm.
Here is the latest image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing the forecasted path for the center of the storm. Coastal areas of Tampa Bay remains under a Tropical Storm watch.
12:58 p.m. ET: MacDill Air Force Base closing gate
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa is closing some on-base facilities Wednesday to prepare for Hurricane Eta. The Bayshore gate will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday until further notice, according to a base Facebook post. The base exchange and commissary also will close at that time and will re-open once the storm permits. Individuals staying at the base RV park must evacuate by 6 p.m. Wednesday, as well, with rooms available in base lodging, if needed. Only mission-essential personnel will report to work on base on Thursday.
— Ileana Najarro
12:57 p.m. ET: Gov. DeSantis expands state of emergency
Gov. Ron DeSantis said this afternoon that he is expanding the state of emergency through an executive order to include 13 Florida counties, including Alachua, Broward, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hendry, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota and Sumter.
I have expanded my State of Emergency in anticipation of Hurricane #Eta to include 13 counties along the West Coast. I’ve also requested that @FEMA give us a pre-landfall emergency declaration so that we can make sure these areas are prepared. More info: https://t.co/PP1OkzBDjB— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) November 11, 2020
At the local level, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman also declared a citywide state of emergency.
12:44 p.m. ET: Pinellas and Hillsborough under tornado warning
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are under a tornado warning until 1:15 p.m., the National Weather Service said. There is also a threat of pea-sized hail.
12:40 p.m. ET: St. Petersburg nursing home will wait and see
Bon Secours St. Petersburg Health System, including Bon Secours Maria Manor, a 274-bed nursing home and Bon Secours Place at St. Petersburg, an 105-bed assisted living facility, might need to evacuate if Eta worsens, said Kip Corriveau, director of mission for Bon Secours St Petersburg Health System. The care facility is located just off Gandy Blvd. and in Evacuation Zone A. But the facility will only evacuate residents if ordered by the county, he said.
The complex has updated generators that will be able to keep residents comfortable if the facility loses power. “Our preference always is to remain in place,” Corriveau said. “It’s traumatic for us to have to evacuate. And so it is the last resort.” If needed, the facility will evacuate to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, 5815 Fifth Ave. N. where it evacuated for Hurricane Irma, Corriveau said.
Bon Secours has a long-standing relationship with the Cathedral and hardened its building with hurricane-proof windows to allow more room for social distancing this year. Residents will be transported on larger Coach USA touring buses, instead of using Pinellas County school buses, Corriveau said. Staff will continue to update residents throughout the day on the progression of the storm. “We don’t see anything which says to us that they’re gonna order a Zone A evacuation, but we’re all on standby,” he said.
— Bailey LeFever
12:20 p.m. ET: Hillsborough opening shelters, but with conditions
Hillsborough County will open five emergency storm shelters at 1 p.m. today for residents who are concerned for their safety. The shelters are for residents who depend on electricity for home medical needs or who live in homes and manufactured housing that are susceptible to wind damage. Anyone who needs transportation to a shelter should call (813) 272-5900 to make arrangements, a county news release said.
— Dennis Joyce
11:47 a.m. ET: Tampa International Airport to close
With Hurricane Eta approaching the Tampa Bay area, Tampa International Airpot will suspend all operations at 3 p.m. Wednesday. In an announcement, the airport said it would begin securing aircraft and other equipment on its airfield and around terminals. Passengers with scheduled flights should check with their airlines.
— Jay Cridlin
11:42 a.m. ET: Tampa Bay could see storm surge, high winds
Jeff Masters, a former Hurricane Hunter and meteorologist who writes for Yale Climate Connections, said by late morning dry air had started to weaken Eta. Tampa Bay, he said, could likely expect some storm surge — 3 to 5 feet possible — heavy rain and stiff winds about 50 mph. He expected the storm to weaken as it moved north.
Masters' view was similar to that of ABC Action News WFTS forecaster Denis Phillips, who provided an update on Facebook about 11 a.m. “Expect lots of branches down, pool cage screens blown out, trash cans knocked around,” Phillips said. “Liken this to the winds of our afternoon storms, except ones that will last for 12 hours. In those storms, power outages, street flooding and some trees down always occur. That will happen here as well, except obviously to a larger extent than our scattered storms. This won’t be scattered. It will be widespread.”
— Zack Sampson
11:36 a.m. ET: Skyway Bridge closes
The Florida Highway Patrol closed the Skyway Bridge late Wednesday morning as Hurricane Eta edges closer to Tampa Bay. No word on when it will reopen.
Meanwhile, a crash on Interstate 275 was causing major backups in St. Petersburg.
— Romy Ellenbogen
11:20 a.m. ET: Pinellas and Pasco courts closed on Thursday
Stephen Thompson, spokes man for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, says: “All courthouses in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, which comprises Pinellas and Pasco counties, will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 12. All hearings expected to be held via teleconferencing or Zoom are also cancelled. However, advisories, along with juvenile detention and shelter hearings, will be held, along with juvenile detention and shelter hearings will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Clearwater and New Port Richey. They will be held at the County Justice Center in Clearwater, and the West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey. Courts will be open Thursday in Hillsborough County, but jury trials are canceled.
11:17 a.m. ET: With hours to prepare for Eta, here’s how
We usually have days to prepare, but this hurricane was in our face fast.
The storm’s developments in the last 24 hours have left Floridians with less time to prepare than usual for the high winds and storm surge that could hit the area. Tampa Bay is already feeling the effects, and tropical-storm-force winds and rain are expected later this afternoon, overnight and into tomorrow morning.
As the storm approaches, residents should use the next several hours to prepare their homes, businesses, documents, yards and electronics.
— Caitlin Johnston
I0:55 a.m. ET: Hernando County schools closed
An announcement from the Hernando County School District: “While the storm’s path does not appear to be a direct threat to Hernando County, high winds and potential flooding are likely for our area therefore all district and school sites will be closed Thursday, Nov. 12th. All activities scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night are also cancelled. The school district’s Enrichment Center will be prepared as a shelter and transportation staff will be on call to transport those without a vehicle living in low lying areas."
10:33 a.m. ET: Cedar Key preps for Eta
North of Tampa Bay in Cedar Key, the small island community flooded by about a 9-foot surge when Category 1 Hurricane Hermine struck in 2016, public works staffers came in on the Veterans Day holiday to prepare for the storm, said Vice Mayor Sue Colson. “We’re not going to get caught with our guard down,” she said. The school parking lot is high ground, where people can park their cars if the water comes up. Clammers know to move their forklifts there, too.
At the library, county staffers shifted shelves and books out of harm’s way in case of a deluge, Colson said. Sandbags are free for those who want them, though too much water would render them ineffective. “We’re just doing it by robotics now,” Colson said. If Eta is not a big blow, at least they got some practice.
— Zack Sampson
10:09 a.m. ET: Still jogging on Bayshore
10:08 a.m. ET: Rivers have room, but flooding still possible
As the storm meandered in the gulf earlier this week, its course still uncertain, gauge data showed the Tampa Bay area’s major rivers for the most part had at least some room before reaching flood stage. “There’s storage in rivers and streams and lakes in general, but it’s just a matter of how much rain we see,” said Granville Kinsman, who leads the hydrologic data section at the Southwest Florida Water Management District. More than four inches in just a day for some places could change that, he said.
— Zack Sampson
9:30 a.m. ET: Tampa Bay schools closed for Hurricane ETA
Hurricane Eta’s approach has prompted cancellations and schedule changes for public schools across the Tampa Bay area. Pinellas and Pasco counties will close schools early and stay closed Thursday. Hillsborough County was off today, but will remain closed the rest of the week.
Find more information on school closures in Tampa Bay here.
8 a.m. ET: Hurricane warnings and tornado watches
A hurricane watch stretches about 120 miles from Anna Maria Island north to Yankeetown, and takes in Pinellas County and coastal areas of Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Levy counties.
A tornado watch was issued for the Tampa Bay area through 5 p.m. Wednesday, meaning the region should be prepared for dangerous twisters, the National Weather Service reported at 8 a.m. The eight Florida counties included in the watch are Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota.
Winds and weather conditions will likely be at their most dangerous point in the Tampa Bay area by about 2 p.m. Wednesday, reported Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.
Get more details on the hurricane’s path and area preparations here.