- After hitting Cuba on Tuesday, Tropical Storm Elsa was moving across the Florida Strait towards the southern states of the United States.
- A hurricane watch warning has been issued to “parts of the west coast of Florida.”
- As the storm swept across Cuba, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from coastal or low-lying areas.
After hitting Cuba with heavy rains and strong winds on Tuesday, Tropical Storm Elsa was moving over the Florida Strait to the southern states of the United States, but did not cause major damage.
The National Hurricane Center reports that the storm is now moving towards the west coast of Florida at a speed of 12 miles (19 kilometers) per hour, and “conditions are beginning to deteriorate” in the Florida Keys in the southern tip of the state.
The US National Hurricane Center stated in its latest announcement at 5 am (0900 GMT) that it has issued a hurricane observation warning to “parts of the west coast of Florida”.
Elsa left a trace of destruction in the Caribbean, claiming the lives of at least three people, and is expected to gain strength when she emerges from the western coast of Cuba on Monday night.
NHC said: “It is expected to increase slowly tonight, and Elsa may be close to hurricane strength before making landfall in Florida.”
As the storm swept through Cuba and more than 100,000 people were evacuated from coastal or low-lying areas, the country’s Meteorological Institute Insmet reported wind speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour.
But its predicted westbound path means that Florida seems to avoid the worst period of the storm, and the southwest coast of the state will suffer a short-term blow rather than a direct attack as previously anticipated.
In Surfside, on the east coast of Florida, workers used explosives overnight to conduct controlled demolition of the still standing part of a collapsed apartment building-a work that has been sped up because of concerns that Elsa might overthrow the structure.
But on Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levin Kava told CNN that officials are “very promising” and that according to Elsa’s current path, they do not have to suspend search and rescue work after all.
Elsa is expected to approach the Florida Keys on the journey north sometime on Tuesday.
The National Hurricane Center has stated that Elsa’s maximum sustained wind speed when crossing Cuba near Havana is 50 miles per hour.
The provinces of Havana, Mayabék, and Artemiza sounded the alarm and thousands of people were evacuated from their homes — Cuba has experienced the worst pandemic to date, and the Covid-19 pandemic has complicated these efforts.
Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said: “Protecting yourself from Elsa does not mean relaxing your vigilance against the new crown virus.”
Stores in Havana are closed and driving is restricted to civil defense vehicles.
NHC stated that the storm conditions will continue over Cuba and there is still a possibility of flooding.
“This will lead to severe flash floods and mudslides,” it said, and Insmet warned that the effects of the storm may continue in the next few days.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said that Elsa killed two people in the Dominican Republic and one-third of the lives in the island nation of Saint Lucia in an earlier operation through the Caribbean.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Twitter late Sunday that only the crops were damaged.
Elsa became the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Friday, and then weakened into a tropical storm on Saturday.
Its appearance represents the earliest date of the fifth named storm (which usually does not arrive before August) to hit the area.