Tropical Storm Elsa gets attention in the Keys — with some preparation but no panic

·3 min read

With the Lower and Middle Keys under a tropical storm warning Monday, residents prepared for damaging winds and flooding rain forecast for the island chain.

But there was no panic in the air. Instead, many people on Monday did what they had to do: prepare for Tropical Storm Elsa.

You know the drill. They located their flashlights, and stocked up on food and water. They cleared their yards of items that could fly in the wind. They prepped generators. They kept an ear on the weather updates.

“We have to be smart,” said Jenny Moran, who lives in a mobile home at a Key West trailer park. “I got my water and all that, just in case.”

Moran, 47, a bartender who has lived in the Keys for 14 years, said she’s feeling safe at home with her dog Lucy and Hemingway the cat.

“I am with this one, yes,” she said.

During Hurricane Irma in 2017, she left the Keys for the east coast of Florida to escape the Category 4 storm. But she’s not taking off this time.

Moran has put up shutters just in case. “I left a little bit of light coming in.”

The Lower Keys could start to feel Elsa’s winds as early as Monday night, but more likely early Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service shows Key West could see maximum sustained winds in the low-40s with gusts as high as 57 mph around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“This is mostly going to be squalls,” said meteorologist Jon Rizzo of the National Weather Service in Key West, during a countywide conference call with Keys leaders on Monday morning. “You’re not going to have hours and hours of sustained winds.”

Monroe County officials have not issued mandatory evacuation orders. But they recommend people in mobile homes, travel trailers, RVs and boats either leave the Keys by sunset Monday or ride out the storm in safer housing.

The forecast also calls for limited coastal flooding, isolated tornadoes, and flooding with rain totals of two to four inches.

The tropical storm watch in the Upper Keys was discontinued Monday, Rizzo said at the 6 p.m. county call.

Those in Islamorada up to Key Largo can still expect windy conditions late Monday night through early Tuesday in the form of several squalls, Rizzo said.

Nonetheless, people should “have homes, boats and yards secure and be ready to shelter in place by sunset,” said Shannon Weiner, director of the emergency management office.

The county isn’t planning on opening any shelters. Monroe County Schools from Marathon down to Key West will be closed Tuesday, along with all offices at those schools, Superintendent Theresa Axford announced Monday evening.

Key West and Marathon airports were still open Monday afternoon. The city of Key West’s parks and community pool closed at noon.

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council suggested visitors consider staying an extra day due to Elsa.

Pete Minagro, 66, of Orlando, said he was enjoying his visit to Key West with friends and feeling safe about staying during Elsa.

“It’s supposedly not going to be as bad as they originally thought it might be,” Minagro said on Monday afternoon.

“We just went walking around a little bit, had a few drinks,” Minagro said. “We’re just resting up now and going out to dinner tonight.”

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