Warnings and watches were extended along Florida’s west coast Monday morning as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches Cuba.
The tropical storm watch from Flamingo to Englewood has been upgraded to a warning as of the 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. Elsa’s impact on coastal Southwest Florida and parts of the Florida Keys, which are under a tropical storm watch, will depend on strength and condition after it crosses Cuba, which was bracing for heavy rain and powerful gusts.
Elsa left widespread damage in the eastern Caribbean and has killed at least three people — one in St. Lucia and two in the Dominican Republic.
The hurricane center predicts that Elsa will scrape the southwestern edge of the state on Monday and Tuesday, with landfall as a relatively strong tropical storm somewhere near Inglis, south of Cedar Key, on Wednesday morning. The Gulf Coast can expect “heavy rainfall, strong wind gusts and isolated tornadoes” through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Miami-Dade and Broward remained outside of the cone on Monday morning. The weather service predicted that Miami could see 20 mph sustained winds with 26 mph gusts on Monday and Tuesday, along with an inch or two of rain.
Miami-Dade officials said strong winds could stop the search-and-rescue effort for the more than 100 missing in the Champlain Towers South condo collapse. The remaining portion of the building was demolished Sunday night.
The Keys were likely to get the worst of it in Florida, with sustained winds near 50 mph and possible gusts near 60 and 70 mph in the Lower Keys, as well as two to four inches of rain and a foot or two of storm surge. That could knock out power or other utilities.
“Think of it more like severe thunderstorms with damaging winds,” said Jon Rizzo of the National Weather Service in Key West.
The Lower Keys were under a tropical storm warning, while the Middle and Upper Keys and coastal Southwest Florida were under a tropical storm watch. Winds could start to pick up Monday afternoon and die down Tuesday evening, according to the weather service. The hurricane center’s latest projections show Elsa passing within about 50 miles of Key West around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
The Keys issued no mandatory evacuations but urged folks in boats, mobile homes and RVs to seek shelter.
The Tampa Bay area and Bradenton were in line for up to six inches of rain through the middle of the week, according to the hurricane center. Winds could arrive as soon as Monday night but more likely it will be Tuesday morning.
Between now and then, forecasters warn, things could change. It’s still unclear what will remain of Elsa after it finishes tangling with Cuba’s high mountains on Monday afternoon, or if the shear in the eastern Gulf of Mexico will further weaken the storm.
By 5 a.m. Monday, Elsa’s maximum sustained winds remained at 65 mph. Its forward speed, a breakneck 30 mph on Saturday, was at 14 mph. As of the early morning update from the National Hurricane Center, Elsa was about 110 miles east southeast of Cayo Largo, Cuba. Tropical storm winds extended 70 miles from its center.
Warnings and watches
A tropical storm watch from Flamingo to Englewood, Florida has been upgraded to a warning.
▪ A tropical storm watch on the west coast of Florida has been extended northward from Anclote River to Aucilla River.
▪ A hurricane warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Cienfuegos and Matanzas.
▪ A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cuban province of Camaguey
▪ A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Mayabeque, and Havana; the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas, and the west coast of Florida from Flamingo to Englewood.
▪ A storm surge watch is in effect for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to the Suwannee River.
▪ A tropical storm watch is in effect for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the Cuban province of Artemisa, the Florida Keys from east of Craig Key to Ocean Reef, Florida Bay, the west coast of Florida from Englewood northward to the Aucilla River.