ORLANDO, Fla. – Elsa made landfall Wednesday morning in Taylor County, Florida, as the tropical storm lashed the state with rain bands and gusty winds, but it spared the peninsula of significant damage and widespread power outages.
And Elsa was still causing problems Friday morning, sparking tornado warnings in Delaware and New Jersey.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center said Elsa was located about 90 miles east-northeast of Boston, Massachusetts, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The tropical storm is expected to continue moving northeast and be over Atlantic Canada by Friday night and Saturday.
Elsa has already been blamed for one death in Florida and a damaging tornado in coastal Georgia. A family was rescued Wednesday after their boat drifted off the beach in South Carolina, and forecasters say a tornado was spotted Thursday in North Carolina.
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In Central Florida, all watches and warnings associated with Elsa were lifted late Wednesday morning. Tornado warnings were issued earlier in the day for Marion, Lake and Sumter counties, but there were no reports of tornado sightings or damage.
Elsa wobbled through the Gulf of Mexico, briefly reaching hurricane strength, but was expected to move ashore as a tropical storm. Tornado warnings were issued in several northern Florida counties, including the Gainesville area, on Wednesday morning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a morning news conference that no major structural damage or deaths from the storm had been reported.
“Clearly, this could have been worse,” the Republican governor said, adding that many storm-related deaths come after the system passes. “Be very careful when you’re working to clear debris,” he said.
Cool satellite loop! Elsa over NC/VA and another low over Texas pic.twitter.com/utOcBmpmUx— Jonathan Kegges (@JonathanKegges) July 8, 2021
Tropical storm warnings were canceled for Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Further north, the Tampa Bay metropolitan area — while wet and windy — appears to have emerged mostly unscathed. Tampa was no longer under a hurricane warning, but weather forecasters warned of tropical storm conditions, including strong winds and flash flooding.
DeSantis said there were up to 26,000 customers without power in the region, most of them in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties that surround Tampa Bay. Crews were working to restore electricity and DeSantis said no hospitals reported an outage, which has been a major problem in past storms.
“We’re fortunate to see minimal damage & flooding this morning, but it’s important to keep safety top of mind. Be aware of your surroundings & don’t drive through flood waters,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said via Twitter.
Schools and government offices in the Tampa area were closed and most public events postponed as Elsa approached Tuesday. Castor, however, predicted hockey’s Stanley Cup finals game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens would be played as scheduled Wednesday night.
Tampa International Airport suspended operations at 5 p.m. Tuesday and resumed flights Wednesday morning following a check for any storm damage, according to its website.
Earlier Tuesday, Elsa swept past the Florida Keys but spared the low-lying island chain a direct hit.
The storm also complicated the search for potential survivors and victims in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium on June 24. Despite that challenge, crews continued the search in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, on the state’s southeast coast.
Forecasters said Elsa would slice across inland north Florida as a tropical storm with strong rains and wind, then move on to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before heading out in the Atlantic Ocean by Friday. A tropical storm watch was in effect early Wednesday for the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia from Duck, North Carolina to Chincoteague, Virginia, and for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp preemptively declared a state of emergency for 92 of the state’s 159 counties ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa. The order issued late Tuesday frees up state resources as needed to respond to the storm and prohibits price gouging.
Elsa was forecast to cross from Florida into southeast Georgia on Wednesday afternoon, and the National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for the state’s entire 100-mile coast. Elsa was expected to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to Georgia as it churns to the northeast before entering South Carolina to the west of Savannah early Thursday.
To the north in South Carolina, emergency officials were watching Elsa, but no evacuations were ordered during the peak summer beach tourism season. The storm was expected to track inland, but coastal forecasters noted the worst weather was on the east side of the storm and could dump up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain and bring wind gusts up to 55 mph (88 kph) in places like Hilton Head Island, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Earlier, Cuban officials evacuated 180,000 people against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people.
Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record.
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