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Elsa Nearing Landfall In The Big Bend

National Hurricane Center

Update 8:30 AM EDT Wednesday: Wind gusts to 57 mph have been reported at Cedar Key shortly after 7 o'clock this morning. Tropical Storm and Storm Surge Warnings have been discontinued south of Sarasota county, but continue farther north along the coast. The center of Elsa is 35 miles from Cedar Key and it's expected to make landfall along the Dixie or Taylor county coasts around midday. Much of the weather extends east of the center, including flooding rain in the Fort Myers area, heavy rain from The Villages to Ocala and Gainesville, and heavier bands along the east coast from the Space Coast north to near St. Augustine.

Credit National Hurricane Center
National Hurricane Center

Update 5:30 AM EDT Wednesday: Elsa has top sustained winds of 60 mph and is located 50 miles south-southwest of Cedar Key and 70 miles west-northwest of Tampa. Hurricane Warnings continue for Citrus county north to the Steinhatchee River.  Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect west of Steinhatchee River to the Ochlockonee River, and from Hernando county south to Englewood.

Credit National Hurricane Center
National Hurricane Center

The heaviest rain band is trailing the circulation, from the Fort Myers area north to Lakeland, Orlando, The Villages and northward toward Ocala, Gainesville, and the Nature Coast. Isolated tornadoes and flash flooding are likely in the band. Occasional gusts of 40 to 50 mph are possible.

Heavy rain is expected to arrive in Northeast Florida and the Jacksonville area after sunrise and lasting through the day today.

The rain bands will begin to diminish around midnight as the storm moves into the Carolinas.

Update 2:15 AM EDT Wednesday: Elsa is a tropical storm once again 60 miles west of Tampa and 95 miles south-southwest of Cedar Key. It has top sustained winds of 70 mph and is moving toward the north near 14 mph. Heavy rain bands are causing flooding from the Nature Coast south to the Tampa/St. Pete metro area and into Polk county before trailing southward into Manatee, Desoto, Hardee, eastern Manatee, and eastern Sarasota counties.  

Update 8 pm EDT Tuesday: Elsa has regained hurricane status, located 100 miles southwest of Tampa Bay. The storm was moving north at 14 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter was en route to investigate the hurricane, and the next full update from the National Hurricane Center will be released at 11 pm EDT.  There have been no major changes to the forecast track or impacts from Elsa, and those are outlined in the original story below.

Update 5 pm EDT Tuesday: There were no significant changes to Elsa's intensity or forecast track. The Tropical Storm Warning east of the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys was discontinued.  The storm continued to produce winds up to 70 mph and was moving north at 10 mph. 

There is an increasing risk of numerous power outages from Elsa near the Gulf Coast from Clearwater to Cedar Key Tuesday night, with spotty power outages possible farther inland across portions of North-Central Florida Wednesday.

A Hurricane Warning was issued from Steinhatchee River to Egmont Key, as Tropical Storm Elsa is now expected to become a hurricane prior to landfall along the Nature Coast early Wednesday.

As of 2 pm Tuesday, Tropical Storm Elsa was found to have maximum winds of 70 mph, which was based on Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft observations and nearby radar data. While conditions are not conducive for significant strengthening, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the watch to a warning in a special advisory Tuesday afternoon, stating that "only a slight increase in intensity" would result in Elsa becoming a hurricane.

Shortly before the special advisory was issued, a Tornado Watch was also issued for much of South Florida and Central Florida until 11 pm EDT Tuesday evening.

There were no significant changes to the forecast track or overall impacts expected from Tropical Storm Elsa with the special advisory. As expected, the storm has begun to move north, where a path parallel to the west coast of Florida will continue Tuesday evening, followed by an eventual landfall along the Nature Coast early Wednesday.

A Storm Surge Warning continues from Bonita Beach northward to the Apalachee Bay, where a life-threatening storm surge is possible from the persistent onshore winds on Elsa's eastern side. Swift water flooding of 3 to 5 feet above dry ground is possible from Aucilla River to Englewood, including all of the Nature Coast and Tampa Bay. A 2 to 4 foot storm surge is expected for areas farther south to Bonita Beach, with 1 to 3 feet of flooding possible south of there into the Florida Bay and Florida Keys.

A Tropical Storm Warning continues for all Gulf Coast counties in Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ocholockonee River, and from Craig Key westward to Key West. The warning has also been expanded eastward to include inland areas of North Florida from Lake City to Gainesville to Ocala.  Trropical storm force winds in the 40 to 60 mph range are likely in the warned areas as the heaviest rain bands from Elsa rotate through. Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible farther inland across sections of north and central Florida, also colocated with the heaver rain bands, where the watches are in effect.

A few tornadoes may occur from Tropical Storm Elsa's circulation as far east as the Atlantic Coast Tuesday afternoon . Some of the outer rain bands and squalls may acquire rotation as they pinwheel farther away from the storm's center and encounter a more unstable environment from less cloud cover and warmer afternoon temperatures. Areas most at risk for this to occur are roughly near and east of the I-75 corridor in North Florida and along and east of the Florida Turnpike in Central Florida. Waterspouts and brief tornadoes may also occur from the outer rain bands closer to Elsa's center along Florida's west coast too.

Flash flooding is possible from Tropical Storm Elsa, although the steady forward motion of the storm should prevent it from becoming a widespread hazard. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected across the western half of the Florida peninsula, with isolated amounts up to 6 inches possible. 1 to 3 inches of rain are possible across the eastern side of the state and in eastern portions of the Florida Panhandle from Elsa.

Tropical Storm Elsa is forecast to weaken after the storm moves inland across North Florida Wednesday morning, likely being downgraded to a Tropical Depression as it crosses the border into southeast Georgia Wednesday afternoon. However, enhancements to the typical afternoon downpours may continue well into Wednesday and Thursday across the Florida peninsula thanks to a deep flow of moisture on the southern and eastern side of the tropical storm

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Jeff Huffman
Ray Hawthorne