- A hurricane warning has been issued for parts of the west coast of Florida.
- “Life-threatening” storm surges, floods and isolated tornadoes are possible.
- There can be up to 15 inches of rain in isolated areas of Florida.
VERO BEACH, Florida – A hurricane warning was issued to more than 4 million people along the west coast of Florida on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Elsa spun past Key West into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where the storm was set to regain the strength of the hurricane before they land in the Sunshine State.
The hurricane warning was valid from Egmont Key to the Steinhatchee River. A hurricane warning means that, according to the National Hurricane Center, in this case within the next 24 hours, hurricane conditions can be expected in the region.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be completed quickly,” said the hurricane center.
The storm was concentrated about 255 miles south-southwest of Tampa at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, driving sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in an opinion.
The storm was moving north at 10 mph, much slower than its record high of more than 50 mph last week.
Tropical gale force winds spread up to 70 miles from its center. Key West International Airport measured a wind gust of 70 miles per hour early Tuesday.
Strong gusts of wind and heavy rains swept over parts of South Florida on Tuesday morning. “Life-threatening” storm surges, floods and isolated tornadoes are possible, warned the expert. Much of the southern part of Florida was under tornado guard.
AccuWeather predicts Elsa will hit land north of Tampa on Wednesday morning. Tampa International Airport is slated to close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday
Up to 8 inches of rain is possible over the Keys and in the southwest and western portions of the Florida Peninsula, and isolated pockets could be 15 inches, AccuWeather said.
Cubans flee: 180,000 Cubans flee their homes when tropical storm Elsa strikes ashore
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for more than two dozen of the state’s 67 counties. At a press conference Tuesday morning, DeSantis reminded residents not to focus on Elsa’s “cone of concern” as the “impact of the storm is expected well outside this area”.
“And if you look at the storm, it’s incredibly crooked in the east,” said DeSantis. “So most of the precipitation will be east of the center of the storm.”
President Joe Biden approved a state emergency declaration, which means the federal government will fund 75% of housing evacuation and support costs.
Miami-Dade County, which DeSantis removed from the emergency list, was not entirely spared. Heavy rains and winds were reported, and lightning late Monday forced crews to halt searches for victims of the June 24 condo collapse in Surfside, officials said.
MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa evacuated some aircraft to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, before the storm.
Elsa slipped west of the Florida Keys on Tuesday morning and was expected to be moving near or over parts of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“A slow gain is forecast by tonight and Elsa could be close to hurricane strength before it hits land in Florida,” the recommendation said. “After moving inland, a slowdown is expected.”
The hurricane clock was issued for the west-central and Big Bend coast of Florida. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Georgia coast and parts of the South Carolina coast.
About 180,000 Cubans fled their homes before the storm; no deaths were reported immediately there. In parts of Cuba, precipitation of 5 to 10 inches was expected by Tuesday night with isolated maximums of 15 inches, resulting in “significant flash floods and mudslides,” the report said.
Elsa was blamed for at least three deaths on her flight across the Caribbean last week.
Elsa is the earliest, fifth-name storm ever recorded, breaking the record as the fastest moving hurricane in the tropics at 31 mph on Saturday morning, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
AccuWeather senior on-air meteorologist Geoff Cornish said the season is far from over – “only in the second inning, seasonally, if this was a baseball game.”
Follow Elsa’s path
Elsa spaghetti model
Bacon reported from Arlington, Virginia; Rice from Silver Spring, Maryland. Contributors: Diane Pantaleo, The (Lafayette, La.) Daily Advertiser; The Associated Press