Climate
CARIB | Oct 25, 2020

Tropical Storm Zeta producing heavy rainfall across the Caribbean

/ Our Today

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By Durrant Pate

Tropical Storm Zeta is now producing heavy rainfall and tropical-storm-force winds in several parts of the Caribbean including Jamaica, Cuba and The Cayman Islands, as the tropical cyclone moves across the northwestern Caribbean Sea.

A flash flood warning continues for Jamaica in the low-lying and flood-prone areas of St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, and Manchester until 5:00 p.m. today, while a tropical storm warning is in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

Jamaica’s National Meteorological Service reports that the “outer bands from Tropical Storm Zeta, over the northwestern Caribbean Sea, are contributing to the rainfall over Jamaica. The storm is forecast to be moving away from the island, across the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico over the next few days”.

With regard to the tropical storm warning for Cuba, this means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Tulum to Rio Lagartos and Cozumel, all in Mexico. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours. At 5 a.m. today the centre of Tropical Storm Zeta was located approximately 490km south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba and 475km southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. 

North northwest movement projected for Zeta

Zeta is currently stationary and is continuing to re-organise. However, a slow north-northwestward movement is expected to resume later today. A turn toward the west-northwest and an increase in forwarding speed is forecast by Monday, followed by a faster northwestward motion on Tuesday. 

On the forecast track, the centre of Zeta will pass south of western Cuba early tomorrow and move near or over the northern Yucatan Peninsula or Yucatan Channel late Monday, then move into the southern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, and reach the central Gulf of Mexico by late Tuesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (65 km/h) with higher gusts. Gradual strengthening is expected during the next 48 to 72 hours. Zeta is forecast to become a hurricane by early Tuesday. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km), mainly southeast of the centre. Heavy rainfall bands will be expansive along and east-northeast of Zeta’s track. By Wednesday, heavy rainfall associated with Zeta will begin to affect the central Gulf Coast region, which may lead to flash flooding in urban areas. Tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area in Cuba by Monday morning.

“Through Wednesday, heavy rainfall is expected across portions of central and western Cuba, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the northwest Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, southern Florida and the cays. This rainfall may lead to flash flooding in urban areas.”

National Hurricane Center

Tropical storm conditions for Mexico

Tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in Mexico by Monday evening. As Tropical Storm Zeta is drifting away from the Cayman Islands, the authorities are advising that flood risk and rough seas will persist. As of 10 a.m. today, the system was located about 188 miles southwest of Grand Cayman and was slowly moving north-northwest towards the Yucatan Peninsula about one mph, the Cayman Islands National Weather Service wrote. Rain showers in Cayman were heavy at times. As a result, both a flood warning and a small craft warning remain in effect for The Cayman Islands. The US National Hurricane Center reported this morning that “through Wednesday, heavy rainfall is expected across portions of central and western Cuba, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the northwest Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, southern Florida and the cays. This rainfall may lead to flash flooding in urban areas”.

“Zeta could be just at or below hurricane strength when it approaches the northern [US] Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and could bring storm surge, rainfall and wind impacts to areas from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. Residents of these areas should monitor the progress of Zeta and updates to the forecast,” the US National Hurricane Center said.

If Zeta does form into a hurricane, it would be the 11th hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season, which ends on November 30. Zeta is the 27th named storm of the season. The next named storm will be Eta. An average hurricane season, based on data from 1981-2010, produces 6.4 hurricanes and 12.1 named storms.

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