ORLANDO, Fla. – The next 24 hours will be critical for Elsa’s future track and intensity as the storm’s structure goes through changes amidst interacting with land.
What’s steering Elsa?
A very strong Bermuda high is pushing Elsa across the Caribbean at nearly double the speed of a typical hurricane. Eventually, a dip in the jetstream off of the east coast of the U.S. will weaken the western edge of that area of high pressure.
This will allow Elsa to make a northward turn toward Cuba and potentially Florida later in the weekend. Any impacts to Central Florida wouldn’t happen until Tuesday and Wednesday.
If Elsa clings to the northern edge of the forecast track, there will be significant land interaction with Hispaniola and Cuba. Potential interaction with Hispaniola would occur Saturday and Cuba on Sunday. The tall mountains of Hispaniola have been known to tear tropical systems apart. If Elsa interacts with Haiti or the Dominican Republic, it may be game over for the storm.
The tallest mountains in Cuba reside in the eastern side of the country. A track on the western side of Cuba is much less disruptive to the storm.
One of the characteristics of Elsa has been its breakneck speed. Typically, tropical systems move at about 10-15 mph. Elsa has been chugging along at about 30 mph at times. This has caused the thunderstorms around Elsa’s center to be displaced. A healthy hurricane wraps the thunderstorms right around its center at the surface. This becomes more difficult if the storm is moving fast.
If Elsa continues to move at a fast rate of speed, it will be hard for it to maintain its intensity and will likely weaken. If Elsa does slow down, it will have an opportunity to get better organized and intensify once again, pending interaction with land.
A subtle change in wind direction with height, wind shear, is also contributing to the more disorganized Elsa.
Regardless of the storm strength, when or if its impacts reach Central Florida, nasty weather associated with Elsa will be possible Tuesday and Wednesday.