Tropical Storm Watches Issued For Portions Of The Keys Ahead of Elsa
Tropical Storm conditions are possible as soon as Monday in the Keys and are likely to spread northward into South Florida late Monday into Monday night.
Tropical Storm Watches were issued for the Florida Keys and Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for several counties on Saturday as Tropical Storm Elsa continued moving through the Caribbean on a track that would bring it to Florida late Monday and early Tuesday.
The watches were issued from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas. Tropical Storm conditions are possible as soon as Monday in the Keys and are likely to spread northward into South Florida late Monday into Monday night.
On Saturday evening Tropical Storm Elsa was very close to southwestern coast of Haiti. Hurricane Warnings continue for the south coast of Haiti and Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for the north coast of that country. Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for much of Cuba and Jamaica, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect for much of Cuba also.
Elsa is rapidly churning west-northwestward through the Caribbean, where conditions were expected to deteriorate along the southern coast of Hispaniola Saturday. The mountainous terrain of the island is likely to enhance rainfall totals in spite of the storm's fast forward motion. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches, with locally higher amounts in excess of one foot, are likely to cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Similar rainfall amounts are possible Sunday into Monday in Jamaica and Cuba.
Regardless of Elsa's precise strength, heavy rainfall is becoming more likely over the Florida Peninsula and Big Bend starting on Monday and lasting until midweek. Rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches, with locally higher amounts, may fall near the path of Elsa. Since many areas are already receiving heavy rain this weekend from a cold front, there will be a heightened risk of flash flooding. If Elsa does not spend as much time over the islands of the Caribbean or is able to move over the Gulf of Mexico, it may also be able to produce tropical storm force winds over parts of the state.
On Saturday afternoon, DeSantis issued a state of emergency for the following counties: Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota.
The storm's forward motion has been occasionally in excess of 30 mph from the flow around a strong high pressure ridge over the subtropical Atlantic Ocean. Such a fast motion makes it difficult for Elsa's circulation to intensify. There is also some wind shear from the northwest which is preventing the storm from intensifying.
Elsa is forecast to reach the outer skirts of the high pressure ridge on Sunday. As it does so, its forward motion is expected to slow down considerably, perhaps at half the speed it is moving on Saturday. Meanwhile, a strong trough of low pressure is moving off the Southeast coast of the United States. This trough is responsible for a front slipping unusually far south into North Florida for early July. The trough will leave behind what is called a "weakness" in the subtropical ridge. Tropical storms and hurricanes move toward the path of least resistance -- toward these weaknesses in the flow. That will cause Elsa to turn more toward the north, in the general direction of the Florida Peninsula early this upcoming week.
This forecast path will take Elsa near or directly over the high terrain of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba, in particular. Elsa's core circulation is small, so it is highly susceptible to weakening if it interacts with this rugged terrain, which is becoming increasingly probable.
Heavy rainfall may spread as far north as coastal Georgia and the eastern Carolinas Wednesday and Thursday as the storm accelerates toward the northeast.
Some officials in the greater Tampa Bay region were urging residents to begin to prepare for a storm that could bring strong winds and heavy rain.
The University of South Florida announced on Saturday that all classes will be delivered remotely on Tuesday. Residence halls and dining facilities at the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses will remain open. In-person classes were scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
Pasco County issued an advisory on Friday, reminding people to secure loose items around their homes and yards, prepare a plan for their families and pets and pack disaster kits, including food, water, medication, batteries and flashlights.
Counties and municipalities are also opening sandbag locations:
Available 24 hours a day.
- W.H. Jack Mitchell, Jr., Park: 4825 Little Road, New Port Richey
- Veterans Memorial Park: 14333 Hicks Road, Hudson
- Magnolia Valley Golf Course: 7223 Massachusetts Avenue, New Port Richey
- Pasco County Public Works (C-Barn): 30908 Warder Road, San Antonio
Available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Linda Pedersen Park, 6300 Shoal Line Blvd., Spring Hill
Available from 12 pm to 5 pm Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
- Helen Howarth Park: 6301 94th Ave N. Pinellas Park, FL
- Pinebrook Park: 7202 118th Ave N. Pinellas Park, FL
- Broderick Park: 6101 66th Ave N. Pinellas Park, FL