The National Hurricane Center upgraded TS Eta to hurricane status Wednesday morning. SECO Energy has been monitoring Eta and its pending effects on the cooperative’s territory. Hurricane Eta’s track and landfall site have continued to change since the storm moved away from Central America last week. Forecasters now predict Hurricane Eta will make an easterly turn into Florida’s Gulf Coast with the potential to travel through SECO’s service area as a tropical storm.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasts shows that Hurricane Eta is about 145 miles south/southwest of Tampa with 75 mph sustained winds. On the forecast track, the center of Eta will move closer to the southwest coast of Florida today, approach the west-central coast of Florida tonight, and move inland over the northern portion of the Florida peninsula on Thursday. Eta is expected to move northeastward into the western Atlantic late Thursday or early Friday.
Projected landfall location is between Citrus and Levy Counties. Citrus County has announced school closures for Thursday. Currently, hurricane force winds extend 60 miles from the center. SECO’s forecaster predicts that Eta will bring heavy rains and wind gusts between 40 and 50 mph at peak to parts of the cooperative’s service territory. A storm surge warning has been issued for the Florida west coast from Suwannee River to Bonita Beach, including Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.
SECO Energy is StormReady and prepared to respond to power outages caused by Hurricane Eta’s rainbands and wind gusts. SECO employee and contractor line crews, as well as tree crews are staged across the system. Above normal rains in October have left some areas saturated. Additional rain from Hurricane Eta could cause outages from trees falling into power lines.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March, SECO Energy has taken the necessary precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of its employees and contractors. SECO’s line crews and contractors are the key to preserving service reliability for the cooperative’s 200,000+ homes and businesses within its service territory. The COVID-19 protections instituted for SECO employees and contractors may slow restoration effort.
CEO Jim Duncan stated, “Our SECO storm watchers have been monitoring Hurricane Eta and its wobbling projected track since early last week. We’ve been lucky in Central Florida that the 2020 hurricane season has had minimal effect on our area. Hurricane Eta looks to change that trend. SECO Energy employees and our line and tree contractor partners are prepared to respond to outages from Hurricane Eta’s heavy rains and winds. The track, intensity and forecast of tropical storms and hurricanes often change, and we will keep members updated so they can be prepared.”
Duncan also reminded members that SECO Energy’s StormCenter outage reporting and communications platform offers outage alerts. He advises, “StormCenter is available for members to report new outages or check the status of an existing outage using their smartphones or tablets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Members should also enroll in outage notifications and alerts via email, text or voice message, or all three. An alert is sent when the system recognizes that your service has been interrupted. The alert will include crew status, start time and an estimated restoration time. You’ll also receive a notification when service is restored, and we will include the cause of the outage if it is known at that time.”
Members should visit StormCenter and bookmark the site on their smartphones or tablets. On StormCenter, members can view the outage map, manage notifications, check the status of an existing outage, report an area light issue and more. Stay up to date on weather affecting SECO Energy’s service area, the latest news releases and cooperative updates by “liking” SECO’s Facebook page and “follow” @SECOEnergy on Twitter.