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Tropical storm Elsa is leaving Cuba behind and approaching the westernmost part of the Florida Keys before entering the Gulf of Mexico and moving northward near the west coast of Florida, where it is expected to make landfall on Wednesday.
At 0800 Miami time Elsa was about 50 miles (90 km) west of Key West and 240 miles (385 km) from Tampa on Florida’s central west coast, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Elsa’s maximum sustained winds are 60 mph (95 km/h), but strengthening is expected when it is over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and especially before landfall, when it could reach hurricane status again.
The NHC has issued, among other warnings, a hurricane watch for an area of the Floridian coastline between Egmont Key and Steinhatchee River in the northern part of the state, the area where landfall could occur.
The storm is moving 12 mph (19 km/h) to the north-northwest and will maintain that direction until tonight, when it will turn north.
According to the forecast track, Elsa will pass near the westernmost Keys this morning and move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida the remainder of the day.
It will make landfall Wednesday morning and then, weaker, turn northeastward and cross Georgia and South Carolina on Thursday in search of an outlet into the Atlantic.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend 70 miles (110 km) from the center of Elsa.
All of the parts of Florida included in the path has been declared an emergency by Governor Ron Desantis, who this morning urged the public to be prepared for the storm and to stay informed about the situation in case there are changes.
According to DeSantis, there are about 250 Florida National Guardsmen (reservists) who have been called to help in this emergency.
In Miami-Dade, on Florida’s southeast coast, a rainy day is expected as a result of Elsa’s passage along the west coast, but there will be no direct impact.
Search and rescue efforts are expected to continue at the Miami-Dade site of the June 24 partial collapse of a building, which on Sunday was completely demolished to prevent it from falling on rescuers.
So far, 28 people have been confirmed dead and more than 120 are missing.
In addition to wind scourge, the area in Elsa’s path may experience sea level rise as a result of a combination of storm surge and tidal surge, flooding from rainfall, overflowing rivers and tornadoes.
Elsa is not the first tropical storm to make landfall in the United States this year. Claudette in Alabama and Danny in South Carolina have already made landfall.
The fifth tropical storm of 2021 in the Atlantic, Elsa also became this year’s first hurricane in the Atlantic basin when it passed through the eastern Caribbean and made landfall in Cuba on Monday.