The tropics track will be live at 2 p.m. ET
TAMPA, Florida (WFLA) – Elsa, the first hurricane of the year, has parts of Florida and other states in its cone, but still faces many obstacles before it reaches the United States.
Elsa officially became the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season on Friday morning after spending most of Thursday hitting the Caribbean islands as a fast-moving tropical storm.
The National Hurricane Center‘s newest track shows portions of the southeastern United States, including Florida, en route from Hurricane Elsa. While the NHC announced the risk of storm surges, wind and rain in parts of Florida early next week, the long-term forecast has a high level of uncertainty about the position and strength of Elsa, which means the potential impact on Florida could change.
The forecast uncertainty is higher than usual, according to the NHC, as Elsa could potentially interact with the Greater Antilles this weekend – just one of the obstacles the storm will face before it hits the US
As of 2:00 p.m. ET, Elsa is located approximately 95 miles north of St. Vincent and 580 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The system is still moving fast, around 29 mph, but is expected to slow down a little by Sunday evening. Elsa is expected to move across the eastern Caribbean Sea later on Friday before moving to near the south coast of Hispaniola on Saturday. The storm is said to be near Jamaica and parts of Cuba by Sunday.
A hurricane warning applies to parts of the coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A hurricane watch was issued for Jamaica.
A tropical storm warning applies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, part of the Haitian coast, part of the coast of the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. A tropical storm watch is in place for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and Sint Eustatius, part of the coast of the Dominican Republic, Cayman Branc and Little Cayman.
Elsa stepped up a bit with the NHC update at 2 p.m. ET, hitting maximum sustained winds of 85 mph – still the storm is making a Category 1 hurricane.The NHC says the forecast is barely changing, but the winds could weaken on Monday when the system interacts with Cuba.
Floods and mudslides are possible as Elsa dumps heavy rains on the islands in the Caribbean, according to the NHC. In parts of Cuba, too, the risk of strong winds, storm surges and heavy rain increases from this weekend to the beginning of next week.
If Elsa continued down this path, the effects in South Florida would begin early Monday morning. Tropical heavy rain, wind, storm surge and isolated tornadoes are possible. The Tampa Bay area impact would begin late Monday. If the center of the storm moved ashore south of Tampa Bay, the impact would be less than if it stayed offshore and riding along the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
If it stays in the east, heavy tropical rain and winds would be our greatest threat. Flooding and falling trees could be an issue with the excessive amount of rain the area has seen lately. If the storms stayed right off the coast, storm surges would be a problem and isolated tornadoes would also be a threat. It’s too early to say which outcome is more likely at this point.
Elsa is the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season after Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny.
According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach from Colorado State University is Elsa the earliest fifth named storm ever recorded. The previous record was set last year by Edouard, who was founded on July 6th.
The Tropical Follow will be live with the latest updates from the NHC as Elsa approaches. Check out JB Biunno, meteorologist Amanda Holly, and meteorologist Isaac Williams on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.