Tropical Storm Elsa Whips Dominican Republic & Haiti, Could Threaten Florida Next Week
(CNN) — Tropical Storm Elsa battered parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti with heavy rain and high winds as its center passed to the south on Saturday, threatening flash flooding and mudslides.
Elsa should move near or even over far southwestern Haiti later Saturday, before moving near Jamaica and parts of eastern Cuba on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The forecast is less certain after Sunday, but Elsa could bring rain and winds to South Florida next week as a tropical storm — including the site of the deadly Surfside condo collapse — according to the hurricane center.
Elsa had been a Category 1 hurricane Friday and early Saturday, but was downgraded to a tropical storm late Saturday morning.
As of 2 p.m. ET, it had sustained winds of 70 mph and was centered about 255 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica, the hurricane center said. It is moving west-northwest at 29 mph.
Heavy rain is expected in parts of Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica through Sunday, with 4 to 15 inches possible, perhaps leading to scattered flash flooding and mudslides, according to the hurricane center.
The storm is then forecast to head toward Cuba, bringing hurricane or tropical storm conditions to eastern Cuba by Sunday. Rainfall of 5 to 15 inches is possible over parts of Cuba from Sunday through Monday.
“Little change in strength is forecast through tonight, but gradual weakening is forecast on Sunday and Monday when Elsa is expected to be near or over Cuba,” according to the hurricane center.
Significant flash flooding and mudslides are possible in Cuba, especially across the more mountainous regions.
The Cayman Islands also could receive 3 to 6 inches of rain Sunday through Monday, according to the hurricane center.
Though Elsa’s center has already passed south of Puerto Rico, its outer bands also will drop rain there Saturday. Rainfall of about 1 to 5 inches is possible there, as are isolated flash flooding and mudslides, the hurricane center said.
Elsa’s path toward US coast is less certain
After Sunday, the forecast and Elsa’s eventual impacts to the US coast, including Florida, are more uncertain. The hurricane center says that Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba on Monday and then head toward Florida.
Based on the latest forecast track, Elsa could start bringing winds and rain to the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida by Monday night as a tropical storm. It then could track along Florida’s west coast early next week.
The hurricane center forecasts Elsa will bring 2 to 6 inches of rain to portions of the Florida Keys and southern Florida early next week.
But even the storm’s center tracks toward western Florida, the southeastern Florida community of Surfside is “still going to possibly see some impacts, even if it’s just some of the outer bands” of rain and wind by Tuesday or Wednesday, CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin said.
Search and rescue operations still are underway at the site of a June 24 condominium collapse in Surfside.
The US Coast Guard has set port condition X-Ray 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 vessels and port facilities must begin a series of preparations that are detailed in federal regulations.
The ports remain open to commercial traffic but the Coast Guard warned that “drawbridges may not be operating 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.
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