Elsa is strengthening in the first hurricane of the season and could pose a threat to Florida by next week

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Elsa sustained winds of 85 mph, gusting up to 105 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. At 5 p.m. ET, the Category 1 storm was heading west at 30 miles per hour, about 180 miles west-northwest of Saint-Vincent.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the southern part of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti and Jamaica. A hurricane watch was issued for several provinces in eastern Cuba.

Tropical storm warnings are in place for Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Martinique as the storm moves away from the islands this afternoon, as well as Jamaica, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic east of Punta Palenque in Cabo Engano, and the coast of Haiti north of Port-au-Prince.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Saint-Eustache, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Bahia de Manzanillo, and the islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

“A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected somewhere in the alert zone, in this case within the next few hours. Preparations to protect life and property must be completed,” said the hurricane center in a special Friday morning advisory.

Elsa was the fifth earliest named storm on record, exceeding this season the pace set by the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season. The first hurricane of the season usually doesn’t appear until August 10, the average date of a first storm. tropical falling on July 9.

Puerto Rico could receive up to 3 inches of rain

The storm’s predicted track brings it south of Hispaniola on Saturday, bringing hurricane conditions to southern Dominican Republic and Haiti. Some strengthening is possible before the storm hits land on Saturday.

On Sunday, the storm is expected to move over or near Jamaica and Cuba, where interaction with land could weaken the system and revert to a tropical storm.

It is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of precipitation on Friday to the Windward and South Leeward Islands, including Barbados, with locally up to 15 inches. Puerto Rico could see 1 to 3 inches until Saturday. Flash floods and mudslides will be possible in areas with heavy rainfall.

In Barbados, Elsa cut the power, according to Charles Jong, communications director for Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Debris and tree branches litter the island and photos emerge of roofless buildings and tall downed trees, thanks to some of the strongest winds Barbados has seen in decades, according to Jong.

In parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica, rainfall of 4 to 8 inches – with isolated amounts of up to 15 inches – is possible from Saturday to Sunday, the hurricane center said.

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Those near the recently erupted La Soufrière volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have an additional concern to fear: heavy rains causing lahars.

“When the volcano erupted, it deposited large amounts of ash on the island, much of it at higher elevations. Heavy rains will mix with the ash, creating a mud that can cause extensive damage resembling to mudslides – called lahar, “CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

“In parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica, rainfall of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches is possible from Saturday to Sunday. This rain can lead to scattered flash floods and mudslides.” , according to the hurricane center.

Elsa could have an impact on finding condos, governor says

By Monday morning, the storm is expected to turn further north and could move over Florida, most likely on Tuesday. There is considerable uncertainty with the extended forecast, so the exact part of Florida is still a major unknown. Most of the state of Florida is within the hurricane center forecast cone.

Elsa within days could have an impact on search and rescue efforts at the surfside condo collapse site, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.

“It is possible that this area could see tropical storm force winds,” he said on Friday morning. “Not guaranteed, but it is possible, and so our emergency management department assumes this will happen and makes the necessary preparations so that we can, of course, protect a lot of the equipment.

“You could also have an event with the building,” DeSantis said.

Florida condominium rescue efforts put to the test by threats of collapse and impending hurricane

Search and rescue work at the site was temporarily halted Thursday due to structural issues with the standing structure, then resumed in the evening. The Florida State Response Team coordinated 500 local and state responders on site, DeSantis said.

With Elsa’s impacts on Florida “starting as early as Sunday night… we’re adding this special emphasis to this site because we understand the sensitivities involved,” the governor said.

Miami-Dade County faces the risk of heavy rain and strong winds from Elsa from Sunday evening to Monday morning, county office emergency management division director Charles Cyrille said Thursday evening.

While officials don’t believe the county is in immediate danger, they have made contingency plans, he said.

The Florida Keys and parts of southern Florida’s peninsula early next week face a risk of storm surge, wind and heavy rain, the hurricane center warns. Elsa’s strength next week is also highly uncertain due to the possibility of terrestrial interactions and disagreements between weather models.

The center of the hurricane has low confidence in the extended forecast path. Some weather models predict Elsa to turn and stay east of Florida, while others take her to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the entire Florida peninsula in the error cone.

“It is too early to determine what impacts, if any, could occur there next week given the uncertainty of the long-term forecast,” the hurricane center said Thursday.

CNN’s Monica Garrett, Michelle Krupa and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.

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