ORLANDO, Fla. – Elsa remains a tropical storm on a projected path to Florida.
As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Elsa was 165 miles southeast of Cayo Largo, Cuba, and moving northwest at 15 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 65 mph.
The storm will continue to move north to northwest potentially making landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday. Central Florida will feel gusty winds, tropical downpours and a few strong storms as Elsa passes by.
A couple of tornadoes will be possible as most of Central Florida will be on Elsa’s dirty side. For the most part, however, local impacts look to be isolated. As always, though, the forecast can change.
Elsa will move into Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday.
Cuba evacuated 180,000 people amid fears that Tropical Storm Elsa could cause heavy flooding after battering several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.
The Cuban government opened shelters and moved to protect sugarcane and cocoa crops ahead of the storm, which was offshore moving along Cuba’s southern coast Sunday night. Most of those evacuated went to relatives’ homes, while some people sheltered at government facilities. Hundreds living in mountainous areas took refuge in natural caves prepared for emergencies.
The storm’s next target was Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including in Miami-Dade County, where a high-rise condominium building collapsed last week.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to gradually weaken while passing over central Cuba on Monday.
“After Elsa emerges over the Florida Straits and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, some slight restrengthening is possible,” it said.
The storm killed one person on St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. A 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, according to a statement from the Emergency Operations Center.
Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane until Saturday morning, causing widespread damage on several eastern Caribbean islands Friday as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. Among the hardest hit was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, including 62 homes that collapsed. The government promised to find and fund temporary housing to avoid clustering people in shelters amid the pandemic.
Downed trees also were reported in Haiti, which is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said Sunday that three people had been injured by downed trees.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for western Cuba and for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas.
Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record and also broke the record as the tropic’s fastest-moving hurricane, clocking in at 31 mph Saturday morning, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
Portions of Cuba were forecast to get rainfall of 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) through Monday, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches (20 centimeters). Jamaica was expected to get 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters), with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters).