Hurricane Elsa has torn through Barbados, reportedly ripping roofs off homes and sparking power outages and floods in the island nation as the storm made its way towards Haiti.
In video posted to social media, the hurricane could be seen ripping through parts of the Caribbean country.
Elsa strengthened into a hurricane on Friday, eventually blowing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kph), according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
With the hurricane believed to be headed towards Florida, there are fears that it could hamper rescue efforts in Surfside, Miami, where responders have been working tirelessly to search for survivors following the 24 June partial collapse of a residential building.
At least 18 people have been confirmed dead in the incident at the Champlain Towers South condominium, while 145 people are still unaccounted for.
It is feared that the death toll will rise in the deadly building collapse.
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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of Hurricane Elsa as the tropical cyclone pounds down on the eastern Caribbean as it makes its way towards Florida.
Elsa marks first hurricane of the Atlantic season, threatening rescue efforts in Miami
Storm Elsa has strengthened into what has become the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, battering the eastern Caribbean and making its way towards Florida.
Hurricane warnings came into effect for Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with schools and businesses forced to close as the storm was declared a hurricane on Friday.
The tropical cyclone appears headed towards Florida, prompting fears that it could hamper rescue efforts in Miami, following the partial collapse of a residential building in Surfside.
Rescue efforts have been underway for days since the 24 June collapse.
Eighteen people have been confirmed dead, while 145 are still unaccounted for.
Where will hurricane hit and will it reach Florida?
As Hurricane Elsa batters the Caribbean, there are fears that it could also impact parts of southern Florida, raising concerns that the tropical cyclone could shut down rescue efforts at the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Miami.
US news editor Harriet Sinclair takes a look at where Elsa is expected to hit and whether the storm will reach Florida:
Elsa became the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season on Friday
‘I am pleading with you’: St Vincent PM says hurricane cannot be taken lightly
St Vincent’s Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has warned that the winds Hurricane Elsa will bring could cause major “damage”.
As Elsa sustained winds of around 75 mph (120 kph), the St Vincent PM said: “I am pleading with you. Let us not take this hurricane lightly,” according to The Associated Press.
“This is not the time to play the fool,” Mr Gonsalves said.
Authorities have opened dozens of shelters in St Vincent, urging people to evacuate if they live near a valley.
Mr Gonsalves warned: “Do not wait until it’s too late to go to a shelter.”
Hurricane Elsa sees sustained wind of 74mph
Hurricane Elsa has seen sustained wind of 74mph near Barbados with a gust up to 86mph, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
The sustained speeds marked the former storm’s transition into a hurricane.
First hurricane of Atlantic season has come earlier than ‘average’, expert says
The first hurricane of the Atlantic season - Hurricane Elsa - has come earlier than “average” according to a meteorologist at Colorado State University.
In a tweet, Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at CSU speciailising in Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts, noted that Elsa marks the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.
The 1991-2020 average date for the Atlantic hurricane formation, he said, however, is 14 August.
With Elsa forming at the start of July, the hurricane comes more than a month earlier than the average.
Watch hurricane Elsa unfold from above
As Hurricane Elsa hammers the eastern Caribbean, making its way towards Florida, satellite imagery shows the system on the move.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft is “currently investigating the hurricane,” the National Weather service in Key West said in a tweet.
Heavy rains from Florida Panhandle to southern Texas could ‘trigger flash flooding’, NOAA warns
Heavy rains are forecast to remain along the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to southern Texas, which could “trigger flash flooding and small stream flooding this weekend”, the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned.
“Some rivers in this area are at elevated levels, and isolated minor river flooding is ongoing,” it said.
The NOAA warned that Hurricane Elsa could be stormy conditions to Florida, specifically.
“As Hurricane Elsa...moves northwestward in the coming days, there’s a risk of storm surge, wind and rain for the Florida Keys and portions of the southern Florida Peninsula early next week,” it said.
The warning comes amid concerns around the impact Elsa could have on rescue efforts in Miami following the partial collapse of a residential building in Surfside.
Eighteen people have been confirmed dead, but 145 people are still unaccounted for in the incident.
Video shows Elsa slamming Barbados with heavy winds
Video posted to social media appears to show Hurricane Elsa hitting Barbados with heavy winds.
Posted to social media on Friday, the video shows strong winds gusting as trees shake amid the storm.
“I underestimated Elsa,” the social media user writes.
Florida governor warns of Elsa’s impact amid rescue efforts in Miami
Florida Gov Ron DeSantis has suggested that Hurricane Elsa could impact search and rescue efforts following the building collapse in Surfside, Miami.
Echoing concerns of the impact the tropical cyclone could have, he said in a tweet: “While we continue to support Surfside and monitor ongoing search efforts, we are also preparing for potential effects from Tropical Storm #Elsa.”
He noted that it was predicted that the storm “could impact Florida early next week”.
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