- Florida’s Gulf Coast was under a tropical storm warning Monday in anticipation of Elsa.
- An estimated 180,000 Cubans have fled their homes as Elsa makes its way toward the island.
- Elsa is then forecast to move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The National Weather Service extended a tropical storm warning for Florida’s Gulf Coast as far north as Tampa Bay on Monday in advance of Tropical Storm Elsa, forecast to slam across Cuba before targeting the Sunshine State.
The National Weather Service said Elsa was expected to move across central and western Cuba later Monday and pass near the Florida Keys early Tuesday. Elsa is then forecast to move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.
An estimated 180,000 Cubans have fled their homes. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in 15 counties.
“All Floridians should prepare for the possibility of heavy rain, flooding and potential power outages,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Now is the time to restock your supplies and review your hurricane plan.”
The list of counties includes Miami-Dade. The county is home to the Champlain Towers South condo complex, which partially collapsed last month. Authorities took down the rest of the building Sunday amid concerns the storm would knock it to the ground. The death toll from that tragedy rose to 27 on Monday, with 118 people still missing.
DeSantis said Monday that Miami Dade would be taken off the state-of-emergency list, citing the most recent forecasts placing the storm’s primary impact on the state’s Gulf Coast.
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Elsa had intensified to the season’s first hurricane late last week before returning to tropical storm status, though sustained winds were still blasting at 65 mph early Monday.
The storm is already blamed for at least three deaths on its sweep through the Caribbean. One person died on St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.
Barbados was also hit hard, with more than 1,100 people reporting damaged houses, including 62 homes that collapsed.
Tropical Storm Elsa: Forecasters keep a watchful eyeon Elsa as it tracks closer to Florida
The storm was centered about 140 miles southeast of Havana and headed northwest at 14 mph. AccuWeather Meteorologist Thomas Geiger predicted Elsa will slide south of Cuba before turning north and moving briefly over the island. A small shift would cause Elsa to move northwest over Cuba for a longer period of time, he said.
After crossing Cuba, Elsa is forecast to weaken as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, which would keep most of the U.S. damage contained to the western side of Florida, Geiger said.
Contributing: Rick Neale, Florida Today