Tropical Storm Elsa has weakened slightly with winds dropping to 60mph as it made landfall on the southern coast of Cuba in the mid-afternoon on 5 July.
More than 180,000 residents were evacuated from the country as the storm approached, expecting to bring flooding rains through Monday before entering the Gulf of Mexico and making a second landfall on the western coast of Florida, according to projections from the National Weather Service.
Heavy rains are expected to bring “significant flooding and mudslides” across Cuba, the agency said. “Tropical storm conditions and a dangerous storm surge” will continue through central and western Cuba on Monday.
Florida and coastal Georgia could see isolated flooding though Wednesday, when the storm is likely to begin to weaken to a tropical depression.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect along the southern Florida coast, with tropical storm watches extending from Port St Joe along the panhandle towards Tampa and Fort Myers.
“On the forecast track, Elsa is expected to continue to move over west-central Cuba for the next several hours, move into the Florida Straits this evening, and pass near the Florida Keys early Tuesday,” according to an afternoon alert from the National Weather Service.
Elsa strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Friday before it weakened into a tropical storm.
Although the storm has continued to weaken as it moves over land, it is expected to gain some strength when it enters the gulf.
At least two people died as the storm struck the Dominican Republic, and at least one person was killed as the storm hit St Lucia.
The storm made landfall around 2pm EST on Monday roughly 80 miles southeast of Havana.
On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for 15 counties, including Miami-Dade, where emergency crews performed a controlled demolition of a partially collapsed condo building in Surfside ahead of the storm’s approach.
“While we continue to provide resources to support the response at Surfside, impacts from Elsa will begin affecting the Florida Keys and portions of southern Florida as early as Monday,” he said in a statement. “All Floridians in the potential path of this storm need to prepare for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall and flash flooding.”
President Joe Biden has also declared an emergency in Florida and directed federal assistance to supplement the state, tribal and local response.
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