LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Lake County emergency management officials went to a level two activation Monday after Tropical Storm Elsa’s track shifted further west, putting landfall on the west coast of Florida by mid-week.
The activation means the county brings in parts of government, nonprofits and other agencies to monitor the storm. The county also activated its information hotline for residents at 352-253-9999, Lake County Public Safety Director Thomas Carpenter said.
“We started monitoring Elsa at the end of last week, it’s very uncharacteristic for this time of year to see a storm form like the way it did out of the Atlantic and come this way,” Carpenter said. “It’s still early, we see that typically in August, September and October. But early on, it had a track that came very close to Lake County and it’s kind of maintained that.”
The county remains under a tropical storm watch as of Tuesday afternoon, meaning the county could face tropical storm winds within 48 hours.
Lake County Public Schools will close Wednesday, school officials announced.
The latest track from the National Hurricane Center predicts that Elsa will be off the Tampa Bay area early Wednesday, with a projected landfall in the Sunshine State near the Big Bend.
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center say Lake County could face potential tornado threats, up to 50 mph gusts and 2-4 inches of rain from Elsa.
Carpenter said emergency management teams have not elected to lower any lake levels yet and the county’s waterways could sustain about 6 inches of rain.
Lake County emergency management officials are encouraging residents to sign up for Alert Lake, the county’s emergency notification system.
“We want our residents to remember that it’s hurricane season, and to make sure that they’re doing their personal preparations,” Carpenter said. “Make sure that they’ve got that disaster supply kit, the food, the water that they need and understanding their communications plan, where they plan to stay.”
Shelters are on standby and will be ready to open if needed, according to Carpenter.
On Tuesday, Lake County Deputy Emergency Management Director Megan Milanese said the area is on flood watch, warning residents to stay off the roads when the storm impacts arrive.
“We are in a flood watch right now it will be flooding more of that flash flooding in the urban areas,” Milanese said.
Officials with the city of Tavares announced all non-essential operations will close Wednesday until 1 p.m. Wednesday’s 4 p.m. city council will go on as planned at city hall.
Tavares is also preparing the marina and seaplane base for the incoming storm, including double tying down aircraft and notifying boat owners.
At the Ace Hardware in Clermont, residents were buying propane tanks, generators and water on Monday. Many customers said they’re preparing for any possible impact from Elsa.
“I’ll be prepared but I hope it’s just a rainstorm,” resident Frank Sollie said. “I’m going to gas up my car and my truck just make sure my tanks are full just to be prepared.”
Scott Kauffman also stocking up on supplies.
“Power, batteries, flashlights, again I’ve got my generator,” Kauffman said.
Sandbags are available at five Lake County locations Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Residents must bring their own shovels and are limited to 10 bags of sand per household. No tools will be provided at sand deployment sites and residents are responsible for filling their own sandbags.
Sandbags will only be offered during designated times before a storm threat. No sandbags will be dispensed during storm conditions.
Astor Area (Fire Station #10)
23023 State Road 40 in Astor
East Lake Sports and Community Complex
24809 Wallick Road in Sorrento
26701 US Highway 27 in Leesburg
North Lake Regional Park
40730 Roger Giles Road in Umatilla
Minneola Athletic Complex
1300 Fosgate Road (13930 Education Ave) in Minneola