Tropical Storm Elsa, which formed Thursday morning over the Atlantic Ocean, is moving quickly toward the Caribbean, and South Florida is potentially in its path, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Though it is too soon to determine what, if any, impacts could occur in Florida next week, officials encouraged residents to monitor the storm and make preparations.
This incudes crews at the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, where frequent bouts of lightning and thunderstorms already have forced the suspension of rescue efforts. Showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast for the next several days in Surfside, the National Weather Service said.
Elsa is forecast to drift west-northwest over open waters of the Caribbean Sea from Saturday through Monday, possibly entering the Gulf of Mexico around Tuesday.
AccuWeather meteorologists are concerned that Elsa could strengthen quickly into a hurricane as it approaches the Windward Islands. If it develops into a hurricane, Elsa would become the first of the 2021 Atlantic season. Heavy rains could lead to isolated flash flooding and mudslides in the Caribbean.
The center of the storm was about 680 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands as of 11 a.m. EDT Thursday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 45 mph with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days.
The hurricane center forecast calls for winds up to 65 mph by Monday, just short of a Category 1 hurricane, which has winds of 74 to 95 mph.
Elsa moved toward the west at 25 mph. An even faster motion to the west-northwest is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours. On the forecast track, the system will pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands or the southern Leeward Islands on Friday, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Guadeloupe.
Elsa became the earliest E storm on record, beating out Edouard, which formed July 6. Elsa is the fifth tropical storm of the 2021 season in the Atlantic, following Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny.
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Contributing: The Associated Press