ORLANDO, Fla. – Tropical Storm Elsa continues to rapidly churn in the Atlantic and remains on a projected path toward Florida, a large portion of which is in the cone of uncertainty.
As of Thursday, Elsa had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, with higher gusts, and was 260 miles east-southeast of Barbados, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 90 miles from the center of Elsa, which was moving west-northwest at 26 mph. An even faster motion to the west-northwest is expected over the next 24 to 36 hours.
According to the National Hurricane Center advisory, there is “significant uncertainty” in Elsa’s track beyond the next 72 hours, however, it is likely to intensify within the next day or two.
Elsa, the earliest fifth named storm on record, beating out last year’s Eduardo, which formed on July 6, is expected to cause heavy rains that may lead to isolated flash flooding and mudslides in the Caribbean.
The storm is expected to pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands or the southern Leeward Islands on Friday bringing heavy rainfall, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night and move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday.
Elsa is forecast to produce rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches, with maximum totals of 8 inches on Friday across the Windward and the southern Leeward Islands, including Barbados.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Guadeloupe.
Tropical storm watches have been issued Grenada and its dependencies, the southern and western coasts of Haiti from the southern border of the Dominican Republic to Le Mole le St Nicholas, Jamaica and the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from the southern border of Haiti eastward to Punta Palenque.
It’s unclear how Elsa will track after Saturday, although Florida is in her sights -- as of now.