The storm heads north toward the Florida Keys, gaining slightly in intensity after leaving a trail of destruction through the Caribbean that claimed at least three lives.
After battering Cuba with a dangerous storm surge, mudslides and "flooding rains," Tropical Storm Elsa has gained slightly in intensity as it headed north toward the Florida Keys, the US National Hurricane Center reported.
The storm left a trail of destruction through the Caribbean, claiming at least three lives.
But Florida appeared to be getting a bit of a break, as forecasters shifted its likely path westward, suggesting not the direct hit earlier expected but more a glancing blow to the southwest coast of the state.
In Surfside, on Florida's east coast, workers overnight used explosives in the controlled demolition of the still-standing portion of a collapsed condo building. The job was accelerated for fear Elsa might topple the structure in uncontrolled fashion.
But on Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN that officials were "very hopeful" that, with Elsa's current path, they would not now have to pause search-and-rescue efforts.
Here are the 5AM EDT July 5 Tropical Storm #Elsa Key Messages. Tropical Storm Warnings and Watches extended northward along the west coast of Florida. Storm Surge Watch in effect for portions of the west coast of Florida. https://t.co/8mjVghXe3g pic.twitter.com/3Mx1RVPF2Q— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) July 5, 2021
Storm approaches Florida
The storm is expected next to approach the Florida Keys — the archipelago at the state's southern tip — sometime Tuesday on its march northward.
The National Hurricane Center, in a 2:00 pm update (1800 GMT), said Elsa had maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 kilometres per hour).
It was moving northwest at 14 miles per hour.
Cuba's meteorological institute Insmet reported earlier that Elsa had cut through the island with winds of up to 100 kilometers an hour, with "some stronger gusts."
States of alarm were sounded in the provinces of Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa.
The storm was expected to dump up to 38 centimetres (15 inches) of rain in parts of Cuba, the NHC said.
Elsa Update: Here's a really good idea of timing and intensity for wind and rain. By far, the heaviest weather arrives Tuesday evening and overnight. It quickly winds down on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/zX6L7TlUOy— Denis Phillips (@DenisPhillipsWx) July 5, 2021
Earliest fifth named storm
During its earlier approach through the Caribbean, Elsa claimed two lives in the Dominican Republic and a third in the island state of Santa Lucia, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said.
While Elsa ravaged the southern coast of Cuba from Sunday until Monday morning, no major damage was reported.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said late Sunday on Twitter that there had only been damage to farm crops.
On Friday, Elsa became the first hurricane of the Atlantic season before weakening to tropical storm status on Saturday.
Elsa's advent represented the earliest ever that a fifth named storm has struck the region.
Typically, the fifth named storm does not arrive before August.