Tropical Storm Elsa nears Florida but not the condo collapse site

Tropical Storm Elsa, back over water but still producing heavy rains in Cuba, is expected to move near the lower Florida Keys Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane center says. It’s forecast to then head near or over parts of Florida’s west coast later Tuesday and into Wednesday.

That track would largely spare South Florida, including Surfside, where a condominium building partially collapsed June 24. The rest of the building was demolished late Sunday due to concern about Elsa’s possible impact on the site.

Conditions in the Keys were beginning to deteriorate overnight, the hurricane center said.

Tropical storm warnings were posted for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the Florida’s west coast from Flamingo northward to the Ochlockonee River.

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Satellite image shows Tropical Storm Elsa early on July 6, 2021. NOAA

Governor Ron DeSantis expanded an existing state of emergency Monday to cover a dozen counties spanning the area of the state that Elsa is expected to move quickly through on Wednesday.

Elsa made landfall in Cuba on Monday afternoon near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants. It headed northwestward across the island, passing Havana just to the east.

Elsa’s maximum sustained winds strengthened were 60 mph early Tuesday. Its core was about 50 miles north of Havana and 60 miles south-southwest of Key West. It was moving to the north-northwest at 12 mph.

Elsa spent Sunday and much of Monday sweeping parallel to Cuba’s southern coast before heading over land, sparing most of the island from significant effects. As a precaution, Cuban officials had 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 was the first hurricane of the Atlantic season until Saturday morning and caused widespread damage on several eastern Caribbean islands Friday.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.