SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
Tropical Storm Zeta continues to strengthen tonight with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with higher wind gusts. The storm is moving slowly north-northwest at 2 mph and since the storm will be moving over the high oceanic heat content of the northwestern Caribbean Sea and in a moist environment with low vertical shear through Monday, strengthening is forecast and Zeta will is expected to become a hurricane before it nears the Yucatan Peninsula tomorrow. A Hurricane Warning has been issued for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. After Zeta moves into the Gulf of Mexico, southwesterly shear is likely to increase and oceanic heat content below the cyclone will diminish, especially when the system approaches the northern Gulf coast on Wednesday. Therefore, no strengthening is forecast in 2-3 days and Zeta could be weakening by the time it reaches the northern Gulf coast. However, the intensity forecast is still subject to significant uncertainty.
Through Wednesday, heavy rainfall is expected from Zeta across portions of central and western Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the northeast Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, southern Florida and the Keys. This rainfall may lead to flash flooding in urban areas.
A ridge of high pressure developing near Florida should induce a general northwestward motion over the next couple of days. Later, a shortwave trough approaching from the west is likely to cause Zeta to turn northward and north-northeastward while it nears the northern Gulf Coast in 72-84 hours.