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Tropical Storm Elsa Now Over Florida Straits After Making Landfall in Cuba: NHC

Brittany Jordan

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Tropical Storm Elsa is now passing over the Florida Straits, after it swept across a mostly rural section of western Cuba with strong rain and winds earlier Monday, triggering flooding and mudslide warnings in the region.

In the latest update on its website, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said conditions are beginning to deteriorate across the Florida Keys. Elsa’s maximum sustained winds strengthened to 60 mph as it moved 60 miles south-southwest of Key West at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

“Some additional strengthening is forecast through tonight before Elsa moves inland over Florida,” the NHC said.

Hours earlier, in a 11 p.m. update, the NHC said there is a danger of life-threatening storm surge along parts of Florida’s west coast, and that a storm surge warning has been issued for the area.

Fishermen inspect their boats after they have been taken out of the bay to avoid damage from the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa, in Havana, Cuba, on July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The storm made landfall in Cuba on Monday afternoon near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants. It headed northwestward across the island, passing Havana just to the east.

At 11 p.m., Elsa was advancing at just 12 mph as it moved out to sea, with sustained winds picking up to peak near 60 mph in higher gusts.

Category 1 hurricane strength begins with winds at 74 mph.

No serious damage was reported as the storm passed over Cuba. Two deaths were reported in the Dominican Republic and one in St. Lucia from the storm, which had been a Category 1 hurricane on Friday before weakening back to a tropical storm on Saturday.

According to state-run media, more than 100,000 people in Cuba evacuated from flood-prone areas or unsafe housing in the potential path of the storm.

The approach of Tropical Storm Elsa forced a demolition crew to set off a string of explosives to bring down the remaining structures of the collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida, on Sunday night. Champlain Towers South collapsed 11 days ago, killing at least 28 people with another 117 still missing.

Building Collapse Miami
The remaining structure of the Champlain Towers South condo building is demolished more than a week after it partially collapsed, late Sunday, on July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)

Florida officials said the controlled demolition will aid search and rescue efforts for the remaining victims, and eliminate the possibility of the damaged building falling on its own in the storm.

The NHC has warned that some parts of Florida may experience considerable flash and urban flooding, along with minor to isolated moderate river flooding. The Keys and western portions of Florida can expect rainfall of 3 inches to 5 inches, with localized maximum totals up to 8 inches, it said.

Dark clouds loom over the Pass-A-Grille channel ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa, in St. Petersburg
Dark clouds loom over the Pass-A-Grille channel ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa in St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 5, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)
A man walks with an umbrella ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa
A man walks with an umbrella ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on July 5, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

A few tornadoes are possible across south Florida on Monday night and across the Florida peninsula on Tuesday, the agency added.

In a Twitter post, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to “prepare for the possibility of heavy rain, flooding and potential power outages.”

“Now is the time to restock your supplies and review your hurricane plan,” he said.

The governor has expanded a state of emergency to include 15 additional counties expected to be impacted by the storm. DeSantis initially signed an executive order on Saturday covering 15 counties.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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