Elsa weakens to tropical storm as it lashes Florida’s Gulf Coast

Elsa weakened back into to a tropical storm early Wednesday morning, but it was still threatening to slam Florida’s northern Gulf Coast with heavy rain and winds after lashing the Tampa Bay region. Forecasters predicted the storm would come ashore sometime between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and a hurricane warning remained in effect across a stretch of Florida’s Gulf coastline.

Elsa strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane for several hours on Tuesday night before weakening again.

“We ask that you please take it seriously,” Governor Ron Desantis said Tuesday in Tallahassee. “This is not a time to joyride because we do have hazardous conditions out there.”
 
There were no reports of damage or injuries overnight in the Tampa Bay area, and the worst of the winds were expected to stay just offshore.
 
Early Wednesday morning Elsa was centered about 60 miles southwest of Tampa and still packing maximum sustained winds around 70 mph. It was moving north at 14 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, and expected to turn inland and rake across northern central Florida on Wednesday.

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Tropical Storm Elsa churns over central Florida and the state’s Gulf Coast at about 2 a.m. Eastern on July 7, 2021, in an infrared image provided by the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center/NOAA

A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of the Georgia coast up into the Carolinas, where significant flooding was predicted. The National Hurricane Center said there was a storm surge warning in place for a long section of Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Bonita Beach to the Aucilla River, including Tampa Bay.