Tropical Storm Elsa Forms, Could Approach Florida Next Week
Tropical Storm Elsa is located well east of the Windward Islands, but is forecast to move quickly into the Caribbean this weekend.
The fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season has formed in the Atlantic, but with a path that could take it into the Caribbean by this weekend.
Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened slightly as of Thursday at 11 a.m. It was located about 680 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands and racing to the west at 28 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds are now 45 mph with higher gusts.
Megan Borowski, meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, says the storm is expected to quickly move into the Caribbean this weekend and has the potential to threaten Florida early next week.
“Right now, the steering pattern in the atmosphere should guide Elsa over the Lesser Antilles and south of Hispaniola over the next few days,” Borowski said. “After that , the forecast track is uncertain, as several factors — including the Bermuda high and an unusually strong trough over the eastern U.S. — will come into play. However, it is reasonable to say that Elsa could approach the southern periphery of our state by early next week.“
On its current track, Elsa — which emerged as a tropical wave off the African coast earlier this week — would approach Haiti by Saturday night before turning northeast toward Cuba and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday morning.
The latest forecast from the hurricane center projects that Elsa will remain a tropical storm through the next 5 days.
A strong ridge of high pressure should continue to steer Elsa to the west northwest over the next 24 to 36 hours. During that timeframe, Elsa will remain in an environment conducive hospitable for tropical cyclone development and intensification.
At the same time, however, Elsa’s track should graze the Windward Islands, and by the end of the weekend, islands in the Caribbean. These land interactions could detract from potential intensification.
There is good consensus that over the near term, Elsa will track westward through the Caribbean Sea. Toward the end of the weekend, as the system nears Hispaniola, the forecast track becomes less clear.
Ultimately it will depend on the strength and position of a ridge of high pressure near Bermuda, and an unusually strong trough of low pressure that is expected to dip into the Southeastern United States on Friday and into the weekend.
Slight perturbations in the positions and intensity of those features will impact Elsa’s track: The storm could be guided into the western Gulf of Mexico, or it could be pulled into the Atlantic. Details should become more clear this holiday weekend.
Elsa is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rain, and storm surge to the Antilles and parts of the Caribbean over the next several days.
Although there are still uncertainties in forecast track and intensity, parts of the US Southeast, including Florida, could be impacted by Elsa as early as Tuesday of next week.
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network contributed to this report.