Tropical Storm Eta
Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

Travel Alert November 2020: Tropical Storm Eta to Affect Cuba — and Then the United States and the Bahamas

If Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida are in your travel plans over the next week or so, you may want to consider delaying your travel — or, at least, keep yourself updated as to the latest information pertaining to the weather — due to Tropical Storm Eta, whose landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane shortly after noon on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 in Bilwi in Puerto Cabezas, which is located on the northeastern coast of Nicaragua before moving northwest into Honduras towards Guatemala and Belize, leaving behind widespread destruction to infrastructure.

Travel Alert November 2020: Tropical Storm Eta to Affect Cuba — and Then the United States and the Bahamas

Tropical Storm Eta
Source: National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

Maximum sustained winds of Tropical Storm Eta — which is currently centered approximately 50 miles north of Grand Cayman and is moving northeast at 17 miles per hour — are 60 miles per hour, which means that this storm is officially classified as a tropical storm; and although strengthening is expected to occur, Tropical Storm Eta is not forecast at this time to become a hurricane sometime during the remainder of its existence even though it is not out of the question…

…but the predicted track now has the tropical system strengthening once again as it heads northeast towards Cuba — and likely directly into southern Florida and the Bahamas — and although the Bahamas is not expecting a direct landfall from this storm, northern portions of the country will feel its effects.

The second landfall of Tropical Storm Eta is expected to occur along the southern coast of central Cuba as early as late tonight, Saturday, November 7, 2020 — at a forward speed of 17 miles per hour, the tropical storm may not have time to strengthen to hurricane status prior to landfall — before its track dissects the country and heads towards the southern tip of the state of Florida, where a third landfall is forecast to occur.

Rain from the outermost bands of this tropical system has already started to fall in the lower keys of south Florida.

A tropical storm warning is currently in effect for south Florida from Golden Beach to Chokoloskee — including Florida Bay, as well as for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas; The Cayman Islands; the provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, and Matanzas in Cuba; and northwestern Bahamas — including the Abacos, Andros Island, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.

A tropical storm watch is currently in effect for the provinces of La Habana, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth in Cuba; the east coast of Florida north of Golden Beach Florida to the border which is shared by Brevard County and Volusia County; and the west coast of Florida north of Chokoloskee to Englewood — as well as Lake Okeechobee in Florida.

Much of Honduras and central and northern Nicaragua were inundated with winds of hurricane force, a storm surge of up to 18 feet, rough surf, and up to 35 inches of rain — and up to 50 inches of rain in higher elevations — which resulted in significantly catastrophic flash flooding in low lying areas; and deadly mudslides in higher terrain.

At least 57 people died from what was Hurricane Eta when it was a Category 4 hurricane; and at least 100 people are still missing in Central America, with hundreds more evacuated from their homes. Approximately 150 houses in Guatemala were buried.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

If you are traveling to or from Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida over the next week or so, expect delays and cancellations of flights. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to this tropical weather system which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary.

Here are three airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result of this tropical weather system:

  • American Airlines has issued a travel alert for San Pedro Sula for Friday, November 6, 2020 through Thursday, November 12, 2020; and Tuesday, November 17, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Delta Air Lines has issued travel alerts for:
    • Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Key West, Miami, and West Palm Beach for Sunday, November 8, 2020 through Monday, November 9, 2020; and Thursday, November 12, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
    • San Pedro Sula for Thursday, November 5, 2020 through Thursday, November 12, 2020; and Tuesday, November 17, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Spirit Airlines has issued a travel alert for San Pedro Sula for Thursday, November 5, 2020 through Friday, November 13, 2020; and Friday, November 20, 2020 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.

Summary

The year 2005 was the most active year in recorded history in terms of 27 total named tropical systems

, with Tropical Storm Zeta as the last storm of that season. Only one more named storm is needed for the year 2020 to break that record.

I personally believe that the National Weather Service of the United States and other official weather authorities should consider using the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z to name tropical systems — especially with the inclusion of names which are not common in the United States. Quincy, Ursula, Xavier, Yvonne, and Zachary all come immediately to my mind to name storms which usually do not require those letters during a typical season. Only once the entire alphabet has been exhausted should the characters of the Greek alphabet be used…

…and ironically, the Greek alphabet uses a name which begins with the letter Z. Why not use one of the aforementioned names which begin with the letter Z?

As far as I know, the name of a tropical system after a character of the Greek alphabet has never been retired. What happens if a storm is strong enough to warrant the name being retired and it is named after a character of the Greek alphabet?

Anyway, expect more travel alerts to be issued by more airlines as Tropical Storm Eta progresses over the coming days — especially as additional land masses are threatened by this tropical system.

Be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

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