Tropical Storm Elsa makes landfall on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast

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[Original story, published at 10:24 a.m. ET]

Tropical Storm Elsa hits western Florida with heavy rain and gusty gusts as it approaches its Wednesday morning landing on its northern Gulf Coast, threatening coastal flooding, wind damage and power outages. common there and elsewhere in the Southeastern United States.

It was heading north towards the Big Bend area, where it is expected to make landfall Wednesday morning on a path that will likely take it to Georgia, the Carolinas and possibly the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Besides heavy rains and flooding, Elsa threatens winds of 40 mph and above in already saturated areas of northern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina – which could topple trees and power lines.

“We had a lot of precipitation last month. If you have winds at 40 mph or 50 mph, some of those trees are going to fall,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday morning.

“There is still a lot of damage to be done.”

Flooding was occurring Wednesday morning in parts of southwest Florida where Elsa’s outer bands were still dropping rain. This included the Fort Myers area, where high water made some roads impassable, the National Weather Service said.

Because hurricane force gusts are still possible, a hurricane warning is in place Wednesday morning for the west coast of Florida from Chassahowitzka (about 60 miles north of Tampa) to southern Taylor County in the Big Bend area in Florida.

About 10,000 utility customers in Florida were without power Wednesday morning before Elsa arrived, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us.
Live Updates: Tropical Storm Elsa

The system weakened to a tropical storm early Wednesday after becoming a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday. More than 13 million people are subject to a tropical storm warning in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Elsa will have generally dropped 3-9 inches of rain in western and northern Florida by the time the storm is over – although up to 12 inches fell north of Port Charlotte on Wednesday morning, the National Weather said. Service.

While Elsa’s most intense effects were felt in West Florida, the Outer Bands sent rain and winds to parts of the eastern state as well.

In the community of Surfside in Southeast Florida, teams intended to continue a search and rescue operation at the site of a fatal condo collapse unless the gusts of wind did not blow. exceed 45 mph, a firefighter spokesperson said.
Elsa also whipped the Florida Keys on Tuesday. After the storm passed, the Coast Guard learned that people were to be rescued in the water more than 20 miles from Key West. As night fell, the service was still looking for nine people in the water and 15 had been rescued, he said. Details of what led to the rescues were not immediately available.

Counties and Utilities Prepare Before the Storm

Ahead of the storm, Tampa officials urged residents on Tuesday to stay home and prepare.

“We are prepared here in the city of Tampa, but we also need you to do your part,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement. video posted on Twitter. “Don’t go out tonight. If you don’t have to, don’t go out. Stay inside.”
Highlights of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday expanded his declaration of a state of emergency to include 33 counties as local, state and utility resources prepared for the storm.

The Florida National Guard has activated 60 guards and is ready to activate more for storm-related operations such as high seas rescues or humanitarian aid, he said.

Shelters were opened in at least five counties on Tuesday, and two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.

Duke Energy, which serves 1.8 million customers in Florida, was preparing for the expected blackouts, according to its website.
He had organized 3,000 “crew members, contractors, tree specialists and other staff” of the Pinellas County utility in north Florida, the utility said in a press release on Tuesday.

Additional line workers and support staff were also brought in from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, the statement said.

The University of Florida at Gainesville canceled classes for Wednesday in anticipation of the storm, the university said in a statement.

Elsa is expected to visit Georgia and South Carolina

Prior to Elsa’s Florida landing, tropical storm warnings were issued for parts of Georgia and South Carolina, and a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. Virginia.

After disembarking in Florida, Elsa’s center is expected to travel to Georgia on Wednesday and South Carolina on Thursday, and then eventually move to the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

About 2 to 6 inches of rain is expected in parts of southeastern Georgia and the South Carolina lowlands, the hurricane center said.

About 1 to 5 inches of rain is possible in coastal parts of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia through Thursday night, according to the hurricane center.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 91 of the 159 counties in his Elsa Preparedness State.

“This storm system has the potential to produce destructive impacts on the citizens of the central, southern and coastal regions of the state of Georgia and due to the possibility of knocking down trees, power lines and debris, the grid Georgia road can be made impassable in affected counties, isolating residences and people from access to essential public services, ”Kemp said.

CNN’s Michael Guy, Rebekah Riess, Gregory Lemos, Sara Weisfeldt, Dave Alsup, Devon Sayers, Tina Burnside and Camille Furst contributed to this report.



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