Hurricane Elsa could be headed to Florida by Monday

By: - July 3, 2021 10:47 am

Hurricane Elsa is moving toward Florida.

Update: Gov. DeSantis held a news conference in Tallahassee Saturday evening to urge Floridians to prepare for Tropical Storm Elsa, including collecting food and other supplies to last seven days and putting together a disaster plan.

“Remember to plan for your pets, anyone in the household with special needs, and check on your neighbors and on the elderly. All residents and visitors should heed local evacuation orders if those orders are issued,” he said.

DeSantis noted that some experts expect the storm to strike Cuba on Sunday and Monday but that the latest projections are pushing its trajectory westward. “There are some models that say it might break up; there’s others that say it’ll be a little bit of a bump, it’ll get in the Florida Straits and then really begin to pick up steam.”

Update: Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the state to emergency footing Sunday in preparation for the arrival of Elsa, which forecasters now have downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.

Winds as of 11 a.m. were clocked at 70 miles per hour — just shy of 74 miles per hour, the criterion for a hurricane designation, he said.

During a news conference called to discuss recovery work at the Surfside condominium collapse site, the governor said he planned to declare a state of emergency covering Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

“You’re not likely to see any impacts today or tomorrow but, as we get into Monday if you’re in very southern Florida and then other parts of Florida as we get into Tuesday, anticipate some impacts,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that the storm just doesn’t have enough runway to gain much speed and strength before it reaches our peninsula but, again, these things are just things that we have to watch. But we do feel pretty confident that we are going to be experiencing at least a tropical storm that’s gonna impact a lot of communities,” DeSantis said.

Notwithstanding the downgrade, “we still need to be watching this very closely as it gradually approaches Florida,” National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda said.

In South Florida, as “early as Monday afternoon we could start to see some more frequent rain bands moving through with some gusty winds, and then that will continue through Tuesday. A lot depends on the exact track the storm takes,” he said.

“As of right now, the center of the storm is forecast to pass over the Florida Straits, come close to the lower Keys Monday night, and then up to or close to the Gulf Coast of Florida Tuesday. But remember, any slight shift to the east would mean that we would get worse conditions here in Southeast Florida — the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area — heavy rains, gusty winds, tropical storm-force winds are certainly a possibility.”

As of early Saturday morning, Hurricane Elsa was moving toward the south coast of Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean, and conditions are expected “to deteriorate there over the next several hours,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

The advisory said the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys “should monitor the progress of Elsa.”

And, “By Monday, Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida straights.” Rainfall from Elsa is likely to impact parts of the Florida Keys and south Florida early next week, according to the advisory.

That said, the forecast was still not certain because of potential interaction with the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba this weekend.

Florida Phoenix deputy editor Michael Moline contributed to this report.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.