As the storm has weakened, hurricane warnings remain in place for more than four million people.
In three states, more than 12 million people are subject to a tropical storm warning.
The storm was southwest of Tampa early Wednesday morning, where residents were urged to stay indoors.
As the storm unleashes off the west coast of Florida with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, it is expected to be near the Pinellas Peninsula around 2 a.m. EST – it will be the most close to land before landing later in the morning.
The system is moving north at 14 mph on a collision course with Cedar Key in the Big Bend area, where it is expected to make landfall late Wednesday morning.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency declaration on Tuesday to include a total of 33 counties as local, state and utility resources continue to prepare for the impending storm.
The Florida National Guard has activated 60 guards to serve at the State Emergency Operations Center and Logistics Readiness Center, according to a Guard statement. He is ready to activate additional staff if necessary.
“We are well equipped with means, including high wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and we are preparing for possible missions including humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, etc., “the guard said in the statement. .
In Tampa, authorities have urged residents to stay off the roads as the storm approaches.
Counties and Utilities Prepare Before the Storm
The mayor and the City of Tampa emergency coordinator posted to social media on Tuesday to encourage residents to stay home and prepare.
“We want everyone to be safe in Tampa and we will be up all night watching the storm so you don’t have to,” she added.
Earlier, Tampa Emergency Coordinator John Antapasis said it was time for residents to get to safety before the planned landing.
“Now is the time to come home, get off the streets and stay safe for the rest of the night,” he said. “You should prepare and finalize your hurricane plans and make sure you’re in a safe place while… Elsa makes her way through the community.”
Antapasis advised people who must be on the road to consult the city’s flood map.
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes also warned people to prepare for the storm at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Please finalize your plans and secure your homes and get ready to kind of take down a bunker and weather this storm,” Hopes said.
Shelters were opened in at least five counties on Tuesday and two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.
Additional line workers and support staff were also brought in from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, the statement said.
Tropical storm warnings and extended emergency declarations
Prior to Elsa’s landing in Florida, tropical storm warnings were issued in Georgia and the Carolinas.
The warnings extend north from the Altamaha Strait just north of Brunswick, Georgia, to Little River Inlet, on the border between the Carolinas.
A tropical storm watch was issued north of Little River Inlet to Duck, NC on the Outer Banks. This watch features the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds of the North Carolina Lowlands.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Elsa’s impact on Tuesday.
“This storm system has the potential to produce destructive impacts on the citizens of the central, southern and coastal regions of the state of Georgia and, due to the possibility of downing trees, power lines and debris, the Georgia’s road network can be made impassable in affected counties, isolating residences and people from access to essential public services, ”Kemp said.
A state of emergency has been declared in 91 of 159 counties in Georgia, according to Kemp’s order. The order will expire at midnight on Wednesday unless the governor decides to renew it.
CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt, Dave Alsup, Devon Sayers, Tina Burnside and Camille Furst contributed to this report.
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