The weather in Sarasota and Charlotte counties was sunny and breezy, with light rain along some parts of the Gulf Coast over the last few days, but that’s all about to change as Tropical Depression Eta was about to become a tropical storm on Friday.

Meteorologist Jim Farrell of WINK News said that Charlotte and Sarasota counties are fortunate in that they wouldn’t feel much of an impact from Eta. He said winds on Monday would range between 20 mph to 30 mph with gusts upward of 40 mph. The storm would be more intense further south, he said. About 1 to 4 inches of rain is expected in our region, he added.

“The most likely scenario is heavy rains and gusty winds, especially south of Tampa Bay,” said meteorologist Keily Delerme at the National Weather Service office in Tamp. She said that the forecast was for the area to get up to 2 inches of rainfall, but she said the forecast was probably going to change. The storm’s impact will be felt Sunday through Thursday, she added. However, she cautioned that the storm’s track and intensity are uncertain; “the models aren’t really agreeing.” A Hurricane Hunter was flying into the storm and Delerme said that she would have a better idea of the storm as the weekend approached.

Monday morning commuters are likely to have a wet and windy start of their workday, according to the meteorologists.

Whatever the storm’s path or intensity, local counties aren’t taking any chances. Sarasota’s Emergency Management office is prepared, said Arlene Kistner at the communications center. Earlier on Friday the storm was 110 miles east of Belize City, moving east northeast at 12 mph. Kistner said that Sarasota and Charlotte counties could expect to experience Eta’s wind and rain starting around Sunday and extending into the week.

“We are definitely monitoring this and plans are being made in the event evacuation centers open,” said Kistner, adding, “no decision has been made yet.”

In Charlotte County, Patrick Fuller, emergency management coordinator, said that while the county was keeping a close eye on Eta, “there are no plans to open shelters.” There are four shelters in Charlotte County: Liberty, Neil Armstrong and Kingsway Elementary schools, and the Harold Avenue Regional Park Recreation Center.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Eta was still causing heaving rains and life-threatening flooding over portions of Central America on Friday.

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