Elsa: Tropical storm hovering over Cuba, expected to near Keys Tuesday – Florida Politics

The Keys could feel winds this afternoon.

Tropical Storm Elsa is threatening Florida. With the storm currently affecting Cuba, much is still unknown about its path and strength once it clears the island and heads into the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Politics is tracking the storm’s progress, and this post will be updated frequently to represent the most up-to-date information as the state prepares for impacts.

8 p.m.

The storm continues to deliver heavy rains on Cuba, as it has done for hours now, according to an 8 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Elsa has now passed about 30 miles east of Havana. Officials continue to report 50 mph sustained winds with the storm, which is moving northwest at 13 mph.

The center of the storm sits around 115 miles south of Key West, and forecasters predict it will move near the Keys on Tuesday. Winds should arrive on mainland Florida by 2 a.m. Tuesday.

But forecasts continue to show the storm slowing, which means it will sit in the Gulf of Mexico longer as it moves north alongside the coast of Florida. The current storm path projections show Elsa making landfall in the Big Bend area before 2 p.m. on Wednesday, with sustained tropical storm force winds.

5 p.m.

Tropical Storm Elsa is continuing to travel over western Cuba and is now bringing heavy rains with it, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expect it to pass near the Florida Keys on Tuesday.

The storm as of a 5 p.m. advisory was 45 miles east of Havana and moving northwest at around 14 miles per hour. But sustained winds have dropped to about 50 miles per hour, still squarely in tropical storm territory.

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In Florida, a storm surge warning has now been issued from Bonita Beach north to the Aucilla River. Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning has been extended northwestward to the Ochlocknee River.

But as the forecast storm path steers more toward North Florida, a tropical storm watch has been lifted for the Florida Keys north of Craig Key and for Florida Bay.

4:30 p.m.

A number of school districts have canceled summer school classes and on-campus activities on Tuesday. That includes school districts in Alachua, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee,  and Lee counties.

Pinellas and Taylor schools will close Tuesday and Wednesday. Pasco schools will close at 3 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed on Wednesday. Sarasota schools will close all week.

Some districts are not holding any summer classes or activities and others are closely monitoring the storm.

3:30 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in 15 additional Florida counties based on the forecast path for Tropical Storm Elsa. The newly added counties include Alachua, Columbia, Dixie, Franklin, Hamilton, Gilchrist, Jefferson, Lake, Lafayette, Madison, Marion, Sumter Suwanee, Taylor and Wakulla.

“There is an increasing threat to the Florida Big Bend and inland counties in North Florida,” the order reads in part.

The change comes as the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm’s path to make landfall in the Panama City area on Wednesday morning.

A state of emergency had already been declared in 15 other counties further south, including Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota.

2 p.m.

According to the National Hurricane Center, when Elsa made landfall in Cuba, it brought with it flooding rains. It hit the island nation on the south coast and the island’s west end.

The system is centered 85 miles southwest of Havana.

The wind speeds slowed after the storm reached land, around 60 miles per hour. It is continuing to move northwest at 14 miles per hour.

The 2 p.m. update from the Hurricane Center contained no updates to storm watches and warnings. Forecasts still show the storm making landfall around 8 a.m. On Wednesday morning in the Panama City area.

Officials expect the storm to weaken.

The Associated Press reports that Cubans experienced mild conditions on the island.

“So far, it’s a soft, serene rain. There are no downpours. The streets are not overflowing,” said Yolanda Tabío, a 73-year-old retiree living in Santiago. “I thought it could be worse.”

Still, the storm has claimed three lives to date, according to Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. That includes one person in St. Lucia, a 15-year-old boy, and a 75-year-old woman in the Dominican Republic.

11 a.m.

Tropical storm warnings have been extended by the National Hurricane Center further northwest along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The system sits 20 miles east-southeast of Cayo Largo, Cuba, and is moving northwest at 14 miles per hour. Sustained winds were measured around 65 miles per hour.

A tropical storm warning now extends north to the Suwanee River and south to Flamingo. There is also still a storm warning in the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to the Dry Tortugas.

A storm surge watch is in effect from Bonita Beach to the Ochlockonee River.

Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch is now in place from the Suwanee to Indian Pass. Watches remain in place in the Keys east of Craig Key to Ocean Reef and Florida Bay.

The storm made landfall in western Cuba and has largely passed over the island at this point. Cuba has discontinued all tropical storm watches and warnings.

Forecast storm paths show the storm moving slower, with a landfall predicted in the Big Bend area sometime early Wednesday morning. Forecasters expect it to remain a tropical storm when it hits Florida.

10 a.m.

The entire state of Florida is facing a risk of flash flooding from Tropical Storm Elsa over the next three days. That’s according to projections from the National Hurricane Center.

As of an 8 a.m. advisory, Elsa is projected to make landfall in west-central Cuba but was still about 55 miles from Cayo Largo at the time. The hurricane, as of this morning, was already responsible for three deaths in the Caribbean. With maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, it falls in the category of a Tropical Storm, but this weekend briefly had hurricane-force winds.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in 15 Florida counties, including Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota.

In Florida, the Hurricane Center issued tropical storm warnings in the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to the Dry Tortugas and in Southwest Florida from Flamingo north to Englewood. A tropical storm watch is also in effect from Craig Key to Ocean Reef and in Florida Bay and Englewood north to Aucilla River.

But much of the concern for Florida remains in the potential for flooding. There is a storm surge watch in effect from Bonita Beach north to the Suwanee River.

A hurricane watch by the Hurricane Center is in effect for the Cuban province of Camaguey. Tropical storm warnings are in effect on the island nation in Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Mayabeque and Havana.

Wind advisories predict the first storm-force winds could arrive in Florida as soon as 2 p.m. Monday in the Florida Keys and on the mainland before 8 p.m. Five-day projections on the storm track show the system moving through the Gulf of Mexico and making landfall in the Big Bend area sometime on Wednesday.

The Hurricane Center has discontinued Tropical Storm Watches for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

[Image of WPC Flash Flooding/Excessive Rainfall Outlook]

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