Elsa, the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic storm season, was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday and was on track to impact Florida by early next week.
“We do feel pretty confident that we are going to be experiencing at least a tropical storm that’s going to impact a lot of communities in Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference in Surfside early Saturday.
“You’re looking at a track that is going to go, probably, pass over the western portion of Cuba, end up in the Florida Straits and then start impacting Florida with the eye of the storm looking to be, right now, on the west side of Florida,” he said.
Elsa was expected to move near the southern coast of Hispaniola Saturday and near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was expected to slow down Saturday and Sunday and turn northwest Sunday night or Monday.
Florida condo collapse: Demolition of remaining structure moved up amid storm concerns
By Monday, Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida Straits, and, by Tuesday, near or over portions of the west coast of Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
Sustained winds were about 70 mph, making the tropical storm almost a Category 1 hurricane, according to the 11 a.m. EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Elsa was located 40 miles south of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic, moving west-northwest at 29 mph.
A hurricane warning was still in effect for portions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where near-hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge were expected through Saturday evening, the National Hurricane Center said.
Tropical storm conditions, storm surge and rainfall impacts were expected to begin Monday in the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said. The risk was expected to spread northward along the peninsula through Wednesday and reach the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday and Thursday.
“However uncertainty in the forecast remains larger than usual due to Elsa’s potential interaction with the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Interests in Florida and along the southeast U.S. coast should monitor Elsa’s progress and updates to the forecast.”
The impending storm prompted Florida officials on Saturday to abruptly move up plans to demolish the remaining part of a Miami area that condo collapsed last week, as the threat of a secondary collapse of the damaged structure looms, potentially endangering rescue crews.
Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said conditions may worsen as early as Monday afternoon in South Florida, including frequent rain bands and gusty winds. The conditions could continue through Tuesday.
“But remember, any slight shift to the east would mean that we would get worse conditions here,” Molleda said. “We can’t let our guard down.”
Elsa became the earliest E storm on record, beating out Edouard, which formed July 6, 2020. Elsa was the fifth named storm of the season in the Atlantic.