Tropical storm watch is issued for parts of Florida as Elsa lashes Dominican Republic and Haiti

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The hurricane center issued a tropical storm watch for the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to Dry Tortugas. The watch means tropical storm conditions, including sustained winds of at least 39 mph, are possible within 48 hours.

Tropical storm winds are likely to reach southern Florida from Sunday evening through Monday morning. The exact track and intensity of the storm are still somewhat uncertain.

However, there is growing confidence that the storm will continue near or along the west coast of Florida, first moving into the Florida Keys on Monday, then reaching northern Florida on Wednesday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties on Saturday before Elsa. He encouraged residents to begin preparedness efforts, including stocking their disaster supply kits with a week of supplies and developing a disaster plan.

“We are preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surges, heavy rains and flash floods,” DeSantis said.

The state of emergency covers Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

What is expected

Elsa had been a Category 1 hurricane Friday and early Saturday, but was downgraded to a tropical storm late Saturday morning.
At 8 p.m. ET, it was suffering from sustained winds of 70 mph and was centered about 140 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica, the hurricane center said. The storm has slowed down as it passed between Haiti and Jamaica and is now moving west-northwest at 23 mph.

“A further decrease in forward speed is expected this evening and Sunday, followed by a turn to the northwest on Sunday evening or Monday,” the hurricane center said.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Haiti north of Port-au-Prince, the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti, 10 provinces of Cuba and Jamaica.

Elsa is strengthening in the first hurricane of the season and could pose a threat to Florida by next week
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Heavy rains are expected in parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica through Sunday, with a possibility of 4 to 15 inches, possibly resulting in flash floods and scattered mudslides, according to the hurricane center.

The hurricane center said Elsa is expected to move near Haiti’s southwest peninsula over the next few hours, then move near Jamaica and parts of eastern Cuba on Sunday. Rainfall of 5 to 15 inches is possible over parts of Cuba from Sunday to Monday.

“A small change in force is expected until tonight, but gradual weakening is expected Sunday and Monday as Elsa is expected to be near or over Cuba,” according to the hurricane center.

Flash floods and heavy mudslides are possible in Cuba, especially in the more mountainous areas.

The Cayman Islands could also receive 3 to 6 inches of rain Sunday through Monday, according to the hurricane center.

There were no deaths or serious injuries in Barbados following Hurricane Elsa on Friday, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said at a press conference on Saturday.

“It could have been a lot worse, but it was bad enough already, and it is certainly one of the most difficult events we have had to face in recent times when it comes to the climate,” Premier said. minister.

At least 743 roofs were damaged by the storm, said Kerry Hinds, director of the Barbados Emergency Management Agency. Roger Blackman, managing director of the Barbados Light & Power Company, said electricity service has been fully restored for 65% of the island’s customers and he hopes to recover 80% of customers within 48 hours.

Elsa’s path to the American coast is less certain

After Sunday, forecasts for the US coast, including Florida, are more uncertain. The hurricane center says Elsa is expected to pass through central and western Cuba on Monday, then head towards Florida.

Based on the latest forecast, Elsa could start bringing winds and rain to the Florida Keys and southwest Florida by Monday night as a tropical storm. It could then follow the west coast of Florida early next week.

The hurricane center predicts Elsa will bring 2-6 inches of rain to parts of the Florida Keys and southern Florida.

Search and rescue efforts at collapsed Surfside condo halted in preparation for demolition

But even the center of the storm is heading west Florida, the community of Surfside in Southeast Florida “is still going to see impacts, although these are just some of the impacts. outer bands “of rain and wind by Tuesday or Wednesday, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said. .

Search and rescue operations are still underway at the site of a condominium collapse on June 24 in Surfside. A team could demolish the remaining units of the partially collapsed South Florida condominium as early as Sunday, officials said, racing against time as Elsa approaches the state.

Otherwise, winds from Elsa could overturn the structure in a dangerous manner, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard has set the X-Ray port condition for the ports of Key West and Miami as Elsa approaches the Florida Peninsula, according to a Coast Guard press release. The condition means that sustained gale force winds between 39 and 73 mph are expected within 48 hours and that ships and port facilities must begin a series of preparations which are detailed in federal regulations.

Ports remain open to commercial traffic, but the Coast Guard has warned that “drawbridges may not work if sustained winds reach 25 mph or when an evacuation is in progress.”

Elsa was the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season and the third named storm to pose a threat to the US coast.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Jackson Dill contributed to this report.

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