Tropical Storm Warning extends towards Florida’s Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Triff

Elsa is holding steady in strength as it nears landfall in Cuba, though the storm is not expected to grow. On Sunday, Elsa swept through Jamaica and is now expected to strike Cuba before turning towards Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Concerns about possible high winds from the tropical storm were the reason Miami-Dade County officials ordered the demolition of the remaining section of the Surfside condo that partially collapsed. It was brought down around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. 

Around 11 a.m., the National Hurricane Center stated that Tropical Storm Elsa was located approximately 20 miles east-southeast of Cayo Largo, Cuba. The storm was moving northwest at 14 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour. 

Late Saturday night, the storm hit parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic with high rain and heavy winds as its center passed down south. According to the Dominican Republic’s Emergency Operations Center (COE), two people died as Elsa battered the Caribbean island.

Currently, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Villa Clara, Havana, Sancti Spiritus, and Mayabeque. The Tropical Storm Warning has been extended along the west coast of Florida, all the way north of the Suwannee River and Tampa Bay. The Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas are also under this warning. The Storm Surge Watch on Florida’s west coast has been extended, stretching north to the Ochlockonee River. 

The storm has not seen any drops in pressure that would signal strengthening over the past 24 hours. Conditions are expected to slightly weaken as Elsa crosses west-central Cuba, but gradually re-strengthen after moving over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

On Monday, five to ten inches of rain were expected across parts of Cuba with up to 15 inches in some portions. The hurricane center added that “This will result in significant flash flooding and mudslides.”

By Sunday, Cuba had evacuated 180,000 people as a safety precaution against the risk of heavy flooding from a storm that has already killed at least three people and swept through several Caribbean islands. Those evacuated stayed at either government shelters or relative’s homes, while those living in mountainous areas took shelter in caves to prepare for emergencies. 

The National Hurricane Center track forecast nudged westward with the 11 a.m. update. This track suggests a small impact for Jacksonville, Northeast Florida, and Southeast Georgia late Tuesday into Wednesday.

A state of emergency for Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties has been declared by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. President Joe Biden has declared a federal disaster order for the same 15 counties. 

“We’re preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding,” DeSantis said.

Elsa is the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2021 season and the fifth named storm. 

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