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Surfside Rescue Workers Keeping A Close Watch On Hurricane Elsa

Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.
Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.

Disaster officials racing to excavate rubble near the collapsed Champlain Tower South were preparing evacuation plans in case storm winds threaten the site.

Officials overseeing the Surfside rescue efforts at Champlain Towers South are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Elsa and making evacuation plans.

The storm that formed early Thursday is to continue moving quickly to the west, northwest over the next two days as it moves toward the U.S. coast. There is less certainty about its track, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in an advisory at 5 a.m. Friday. It's expected to slow and turn north as it encounters a ridge, but models remain divided on how wide the turn is.

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Disaster officials on Thursday were calculating the time needed to evacuate rescue workers if fierce winds hit Surfside, an official said.

Work had been stopped just after 2 a.m. Thursday when monitors detected rubble shifting at the site, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said at a press conference. A hanging column moved six-to-12 inches, threatening to damage support structures, he said. A floor slab on the south side of the building also shifted.

Work resumed later Thursday evening.

If strong winds do arrive, rescue workers who have been staying in tents near the collapsed building would be moved to a safe location, the official said. Nearby buildings may also need to be evacuated because of the instability of the remaining structures. Command trailers may also need to be moved.

The official warned that even if the storm takes a more westerly path, strong winds could still increase the risk of working at the site. Thursday evening, tropical storm winds extended 90 miles from the storm’s center, forecasters said, largely to the north.

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