(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Elsa, which was the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, has weakened to a tropical storm, though it is bringing damaging winds and rain as it moves through the Caribbean.
After lashing parts of the eastern Caribbean with strong winds and heavy rain Friday, the storm weakened as it approached the southern coast of Hispaniola, with maximum sustained winds dropping to 65 mph. Portions of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Hispaniola were also hit with heavy rain, gusty winds and rough surf Saturday.
The storm’s center was about 175 miles east-southeast of Montego Bay, Jamaica, late Saturday, as it moved west-northwest at 17 mph.
Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect across much of the region, and a hurricane warning remains in effect along the southern coast of Haiti due to the strong tropical storm, which is close to minimal hurricane strength at this time.
Life-threatening surf and rip current conditions are expected this weekend through the Caribbean Sea.
At least three people have died during the storm in the Caribbean, including one person in St. Lucia and a 15-year-old boy and 75-year-old woman in the Dominican Republic, according to The Associated Press.
The Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys are all advised to monitor the progress of Elsa.
Elsa is forecast to remain a tropical storm as it passes over Cuba and approaches the Florida Peninsula. A tropical storm warning is now in effect across eastern Cuba, with a tropical storm watch for much of the western half. Jamaica also has a tropical storm warning in effect.
The storm is forecast to impact eastern Cuba and Jamaica later Saturday evening and into the night with torrential rain, flash flooding, strong winds and rough surf.
There could still be some fluctuations in the strength over the next few days, though the storm is expected to slow down as it moves over Cuba and turns toward Florida. It is on track to impact southern Florida late Monday into Tuesday. A tropical storm watch is in effect for portions of the Florida Keys.
Elsa is forecast to track up Florida’s Gulf Coast Tuesday into Wednesday. Scattered showers and thunderstorms could start to develop later Monday afternoon in the Florida Keys and South Florida.
Ahead of the storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
Elsa could potentially impact the ongoing rescue efforts in Miami-Dade County following last week’s deadly condo collapse in the beach town of Surfside. So far, at least 24 people have been confirmed dead and 124 others remain unaccounted for since the 12-story residential building partially collapsed on June 24.
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